Lanzones (Lansium domesticum) are native to Western Malaysia and have become a relatively popular fruit in the Philippines and Indonesia. Known as langsat in Malay, these fruits grow wild and in cultivated plantations in Southeast Asia. Most common in Borneo, Java and Mindanao, these tropical fruits ripen and spoil relatively quickly and are rarely seen in the West. In the Philippines, over 75 % of all lanzones is grown in Sulu province, a revelation for me as I always thought Laguna and the Southern Tagalog region was the primary area of cultivation outside of Camiguin in Misamis Oriental â€“ hmm. Camiguin is known for its annual lanzones festival and their fruit is supposed to be unusually sweet and delicious. In Luzon, the lanzones season has just started and will last another 5-6 weeks at most. In the South, Mindanao has lanzones from January to April.
An oval khaki colored fruit, lanzones has several segments within with white, translucent and juicy flesh. They kind of â€œpopâ€ in your mouth and can range from unbearably sour to incredibly sweet. Often there is one seed larger than the rest. The seeds are wickedly bitter and highly distasteful â€“ biting into too many of them is a real turn-off. There is a sap to the skin that is extremely sticky and fairly gross on the tongue â€“ kind of like spreading a faster drying Elmerâ€™s glue on your tongue. When just ripe, this is a tropical fruit par excellence. It has flavor, juiciness, sweetness and a uniqueness that is not found in western fruits. Apparently, bats have figured this out and they munch on the ripening fruit with a vengeance. In Indonesia, they wrap pungent bundles of shrimp paste and hang them on the trees to distract or repel the bats; in Paete, Laguna they apparently hang kerosene lamps on the trees to do the same task. The resulting view of hundreds of hanging kerosene lamps on a hillside is said to be spectacular.