Fresh at the market this morning and only for the next month or so is Paho. These small tart mangoes are not underdeveloped or baby large sweet mangoes but rather a species of its own (Mangifera altissima). The tree is very similar to other more well-known mango trees though their leaves are bigger than that of the typical carabao mango tree (according to Domingo Madulid’s book: The Philippine Archipelago). The fruit is typically pickled, brined (soaked in a salt/water solution), or cooked with other vegetables. It can also be eaten raw with salt and sometimes tomatoes and onions for a mouth puckering side dish.
The fruit can be truly acidic and sour with the added description of being resinous and very sticky. The tree flourishes from the North to the South of the country as well as in parts of Indonesia and is typically in season from March to May. Though it is often harvested and sold in markets, the tree does not seem to be actively cultivated though the Philippine government seems to be trying to encourage its propagation. Doreen Fernandez in her book Fruits of the Philippines lists at least 9 different names for the fruit in the various Philippine dialects (Paho in Tagalog, Popouan in Pampango, Pangi in Visayan, etc.) to demonstrate that it is well known throughout the archipelago and a part of our food culture.
As a kid, I liked anything intensely sour or salty so I inevitably loved paho. I remember it most brined and bottled and kept cold in the fridge. I used to eat it with fried fish, roasted meats, etc. There isn’t much written up on the fruit and I haven’t even found a recipe for pickling or brining it so I will experiment over the next few days. It was in the market in abundance today, about the third week since it first appeared. Seems fruits are ripening earlier than usual this year. At P100 for this small bunch of around 400 grams, it is somewhat pricey, but a little goes a long way. I understand some people have been using pickled Paho in salads and pastas the same way olives might be used. Sounds neat but I have yet to try one such dish…