Friday, December 24, 2010

The Exotic Fruits and Vegetables of the Philippines

In my opinion, one of the best features of the internet and more specifically, social networking is that it allows us to communicate with people from other countries and learn about their culture. I have always had a curiosity for tropical foods. As a child I remember learning about papayas while watching a film about the people of the tropics in elementary school. Unfortunately I never tasted one until I was well into adulthood. Well, thanks to my facebook and twitter friend, Sunshine Abarquez Maxilom has been kind enough to share some pictures of some of the fruits and vegetables found at her local market. Thank you very much Sunshine!

The first is Durian which looks like a porcupine and supposedly tastes like almond-custard and smells like a cross between dirty socks and rotten onions which doesn’t sound too appealing but I am told they are really quite good and you can even eat the seeds; Shineshine tells me they are quite tasty.  Durian has the distinct reputation as being the King of Fruits, it also has a reputation for being banned from some hotels because of its strong odor which brings a question, “ If a hotel is to good for a King, who can stay there?” Durian grown on trees and can grow up to 6 inches in diameter and 12 inches long weighing 3-7 pounds which means this is one tree you wouldn’t want to stand under.


Durian, The King of Fruits

Next is the Gabi which is Tagalong for taro root. The Gabi, for all practical purposes is the equivalent of the potato in Polynesia. The majority of the Gabi plant is edible including the elephant-ear-like leaves. The root of the Gabi is starchy and sweet an is eaten as a vegetable or a treat.

Gabi (Taro Root)
Looking for a natural born cancer killer, the guavano or guyabano fruit has been touted as being more effective than chemotherapy for treating cancer. Long know for having many homeopathic uses, the guavano fruit is being studied by medical institutes, universities, and pharmaceutical companies for it’s ability to fight a vast array of illnesses.

Guavano is a sweet tasting fruit with a tough spiked skin. It typically grows from 6-8 inches long and weighs about 5 lbs. Inside it is filled with a creamy flesh and hundreds of seeds that are not edible which reminds me of a pomegranate which also has many healing properties. It seems like there is a connection between seedy fruits and hollistic properties which might be a great topic for another blog.

Guavano, a Medical Marvel

In the Philippines a sweet potato is called kamote and virtually the entire plant can be eaten. Kamote is typically boiled and is eaten with fish.  It is much more nutritious than regular potatoes and is a rich source of Vitamin A ,B,and C as well a iron, calcium, and phosphorus.


It’s been said that “good things come in small packages.” And evidence of this is a wonderful little orange called Kiat-kiat.   Kiat-kiats are sweet, easy to peel, and abundant in the Philippines making them an inexpensive and delicious snack. They are also good peeled and added to salads.  Kiat-kiats are a variety of Mandarin-Oranges which are those perfect little canned beauties that go so well with orange jello.  Because kiat-kiats are easy to transport it is not uncommon to see them in the produce section of many super-markets in the U.S.

Sweet and Tasty Kiat-Kiats

Have you ever eaten a sponge?  Patola, a common vegetable in the Philippines, when dried becomes stiff and porous and is often used as a bath brush.  Patola grows on a vine like a cucumber and looks like a cactus.  It is prepared and eaten by cooking or frying and is used frequently in soups and salads. Patola is a rich source of calcium, iron, and phosphorus.


While many of us have eaten bananas, in the Philippines they eat the heart of banana or Puso ng saging as it is called there; they are actually banana blossoms. Guinataang Puso ng Saging or banana blossom cooked in coconut milk is a popular dish in the Philippines. Puso ng saging are also available in many Asian Markets in the US.
Puso ng saging (Heart of Banana)

Not to be mistaken for the popular card game Uno, The vegetable Upo is a huge gourd that often grows into odd shapes. Upo, eaten only before it is ripe, hardens when ripened and can be used for such items as handbags and water jugs.  Upo is also know as winter melon because it is easily preserved and is often eaten in the winter in such countries as China and Korea.


Another vegetable common in the Philipines is called sayote and yes, it is also called chayoti in Central America. Sayote is a member of the gourd/squash family and is often lightly cooked or served raw with salads. While it does not have much flavor, it is a very good source of amino acids and vitamin C. See also my post on The Exotic Fruits and Vegetables of Costa Rica.


Our next fruit, Sweet Chico Pineras, look almost like brown eggs. I have not been able to learn much about them other than and people either love or hate them.

Sweet Chico Pineras

Last on our list is malunggay often referred to as the poor man’s vegetable it is now know as a  miracle food because it contains many vitamins that are beneficial to health and actually can be used as a remedy for many illnesses. Malunggay are neither a fruit or vegetable but an edible leave of a tree that just happens to be a fabulous nutritional supplement.


Once again I would like to thank ShineShine for taking the time to share these photos with us, it’s been a real treat. Just for the record, ShineShine is also a singer/guitarist, photographer and all-around talented person and without a doubt a rising star.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these exotic fruits and vegetables as much as I have enjoyed writing about and learning about them. I look forward to visiting many more markets around the world either in person or via then internet, but most of all, I enjoy sharing them with you.

Until the next time, Happy Gardening

1 comment:

  1. I'm in Hawaii I wated to By Chiko Trees 808-329-3787 Thanks Frank