Kadayawan: The fruits are in season again

Kadayawan sa Dabaw is considered the mother of all festivals in Mindanao.  It is one of the most anticipated events to happen in Davao City, the country’s largest urban center in terms of land area (at 244,000 hectares, it is 7.8 times the size of Cebu and three times that of entire Metro Manila).

This year, don’t expect it will be pompous and lavish compared to the previous celebrations.  No thanks to the pandemic called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which affects almost all parts of the world.

But people can still enjoy the awaited festivity by eating fruits, which still abound.  By eating fruits, people can boost their immune systems against the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 as it is a distant cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

“How do I love, thee?” wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband, Robert.  “Let me count the ways…” In like manner, “What kind of fruits should you eat?  Let me cite some of those…”

Durian

Leading the pack of fruits abound this month is the controversial durian.  Remember, some people call Davao City as Durian Republic because of this fruit.  Unfortunately, this exotic fruit is not endemic in the city nor in the region.  In fact, the place in which it is indigenous has not been determined with certainty.  The species is generally believed to be native to Borneo and other islands of the Malay Archipelago.

Durian is perhaps one of the most controversial fruits in this part of the world.  You either love it or abhor it – the smell that is.  Most people, particularly the foreigners, say the fruit stinks, but to some, specifically the locals, its fragrance can be compared to a perfume.

English writer William Somerset Maugham once compared durian to “a combination of cornflower, rotten cheese, nectarines, crushed filbert (hazel nuts), a dash of pineapple, a spoonful of old dry sherry, thick cream, apricot pulp and soup corn of garlic, all reduced to the consistency of a thick custard.”

Durian is a seasonal fruit and generally it is eaten fresh.  When ripe, the aril (usually referred to as the “flesh” or “pulp” and only accounts for about 15-30% of the mass of the entire fruit) is usually eaten fresh.  The ripe pulp can also be made into jam, preserve (often packed like long sausages), candies, and other sweets.

The durian seeds can be roasted, cut into slices and fried in spiced coconut oil to be eaten with rice or covered with sugar and consumed as a sweetmeat as practiced in Indonesia.

Here’s a timely tip to people visiting Davao and who would like to eat durian. After eating, put some water into the empty durian shell and wash your hands in it. This technique reportedly removes the smell of the durian in your fingers.  

Try anything else – detergents, deodorants or whatever, but all these will be useless – the smell will remain just as pungent.

By the way, don’t eat durian with alcoholic drinks.  Scientists believe that sulfur-like compounds in durian may prevent certain enzymes from breaking down alcohol, causing increased alcohol levels in your blood.  This could lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. 

Mangosteen

If durian is the king of tropical fruits, mangosteen is its queen.  The dark-purple round-shaped fruit is believed to have “cooling” effects that counteract the “intense heat” emitted by durian.  The fact that the fruiting season of these two fruits coincide makes their titles particularly apt.

Unlike other tropical fruits like banana and mango, nothing much has been written about mangosteen.  Unknowingly, mangosteen is one of the most-sought after fruits.  In fact, there was a legend about Queen Victoria offering a reward to anyone who could deliver to her the fabled fruit.  

Mangosteen is endemic to Sunda Islands and the Moluccas of Indonesia.  However, it has been cultivated in Java, Sumatra, and in most parts of Southeast Asia since ancient times.  In the Philippines, it is grown mostly in the southern part of the country (particularly Davao region). 

In Hortus Veitchii, James Herbert Veitch wrote that he visited Java (Indonesia) in 1892 “to eat the mangosteen.” His reason: “It is necessary to eat the fruit grown within three or four degrees of latitude of the equator to realize all the attractive and curious properties of this fruit.”

British-born Malaysian author Desmond Tate has written these words in Tropical Fruit: “By popular acclaim, the mangosteen is held to be the most delectable of all the tropical fruits, and it has been proclaimed their queen. There is no doubt about the luxury of its taste. It has won unstinted praise down the ages from all who have encountered it.”

Pomelo

Pomelo is actually one of the top “pasalubong” items from Davao to Cebu, Manila and other parts of the country.  Evident of this is the continued existence of at least 10 fruit stands along Ponciano Street.

The pomelo is native to Southeast Asia.  In Thailand, the fruit is called som-o, and is eaten raw, usually dipped into a salt, sugar and chili pepper mixture.  In some parts of the region, it is a popular after lunch snack once it is sprinkled with salt and sliced hot pepper.  In rural areas, children often use it as a football.

Pomelo is one fruit which has a lot of uses from the outside to the inside. While the fruit pulp is the main reason why people buy pomelo, the peel is also very useful and can be turned into marmalade. The peel can also be used as flavoring.

Pomelo has actually found more uses in the Dabawenyo cuisine than what was traditionally practiced. Aside from being consumed raw, the fruits are now used in the preparation of juices and salads.

Pomelo tastes similar to grapefruit but it’s sweeter.  “One fruit packs several days’ worth of vitamin C, a powerful immune-boosting antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage from harmful compounds called free radicals,” writes SaVanna Shoemaker for the website, healthline.com.

Pomelo is also rich in other vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, thiamine, copper, and potassium.  The latter helps regulate fluid balance and blood pressure.

Rambutan

This fruit got its name from the Malay word for hair because the gold-ball-sized fruit has a hair red and green shell.  Its unmistakable appearance is often compared to that of a sea urchin.  Recently, however, it earned the moniker as COVID-19 fruit as it resembles the coronavirus.

The rambutan is rich in many vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.  Like pomelo, it is rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that helps your body absorb dietary iron more easily.  Eating 5-6 fruits meets the 50% of your daily vitamin C needs.

“Rambutan also contains a good amount of copper, which plays a role in the proper growth and maintenance of various cells, including those of your bones, brain and heart,” writes Alina Petre for healthline.com

Not only that, rambutan also contains – although in smaller amounts – manganese, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.  Eating four fruits can meet the 20% of your daily copper needs and 2-6% of the daily recommended amount of the other nutrients.

Marang

Compared to breadfruit, jackfruit, and durian, marang is one of the most-liked fruits during this season.  “Aside from its delightful taste, marang is also good for your body,” theethnicgroupsphilippines.com reports.  “Studies show that it is loaded with nutritional value, containing calcium, protein, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, crude fiber, retinol, and iron, among others.”

In addition, marang “is packed with carbohydrates, making it a good alternative fuel source for athletes who need to replenish energy levels and fight fatigue.  In addition, it is an effective natural treatment for those suffering from constipation, as it triggers regular bowel movement.”

Now, you know why you need to eat fruits?  Take your pick.