21 Jun2005


by Marketman

Santol (Sandoricum koetjape) is an extremely familiar fruit to most Filipinos and for me, another top hit on my list of local summer fruits. The tree is believed to have originated in the Indochina region, specifically in the Cambodia or the Southern Laos area, according to the Purdue san1University website on tropical fruits. Our name, santol, is very close to the malay term for the fruit – sentul. The tree has since spread to most of Southeast Asia and also thrives in India. It is probably the only tree in the Meliaceae family that has edible fruit. The outer pulp of the fruit can be extremely unpalatable and astringent when the fruit is unripe but miraculously transforms itself into a sweet and flavorful ripe specimen. I love santol. I spent a few years of my childhood in Quezon City and in our front yard we had a humongous “Bangkok” santol tree that must have been a good 40 feet tall, or so it seemed to a short toddler… There are essentially two local varieties of santol, the “native” one with smaller fruits and the imported “Bangkok” hybrid that was first introduced over 50 years ago.

Our tree in Quezon City bore the largest and sweetest fruit. san2Average fruits were bigger than a softball and the flesh and seeds were incredibly sweet/tart and seriously habit forming. I used to eat them from right under the tree, with rock salt, and also as santol jam. As I got older, I used to buy santol outside my various elementary and high schools growing up even though I was prohibited from buying street food! When I moved abroad for many years I went a good 15 years without tasting santol until we moved back to the Philippines. Today, I live in a house whose garden has two full grown santol trees. Both are native, one yields incredibly sweet fruit and the other incredibly tart. This week they are ripening like crazy. Dozens are falling onto the roof above our bedroom causing such a ruckus. I had the gardener harvest the fruits yesterday and he came down from the roof with over three grocery bags filled with santol or nearly 40 kilos of fruit! In case you are wondering what those leprosy like lesions are on the leaves of all santol trees in the Philippines, the species was hit by a massive virus? blight? nervous breakdown? over 20 years ago and they have never recovered.

Last year there was such an incredible crop of Bangkok santol in the markets that I decided in a fit of madness to make santol jam like my mom used to decades ago. I searched cookbooks and the internet for recipes and not finding a single one that struck me as the “one”, I peeled a whole bunch of santol and “winged it.” I soaked the santol peels in water overnight, changed the water and did this 3-4 times over several days. Put them in the fridge while soaking. Then I boiled up sugar and water, threw in the santol and keep cooking until the consistency looked right. I bottled them up in proper jam jars and let them sit for a few days until I tasted the first jar (second photo above). It was absolutely sublime. Perhaps I am just a sucker for memory jarring foods but I swear this jam was really, really good. I gave several jars away to friends and unless they were just being polite, they too felt it was really old-fashioned style santol jam. The stuff went superbly with cheese and crackers as well. It approximates the pairing of Spanish membrillo (quince jam) and manchego cheese. To be honest, I can’t give you a specific recipe because I didn’t measure the ingredients! Bummer. Quick reader poll question: which do you prefer to eat most: the brownish pulp or “skin” or the cottony seeds???



  1. IvanM says:

    Ah santol…weired but I dont think Ive tasted any
    ‘naturally’ sweet santols in my life! My family usually
    eats them with a pinch of salt and having never really
    been a fan of raw rock salt, I prefered eating the seeds.

    Is santol jam the same as preserved santol- the ones that
    they sell per 100 grams in Binondo (Chinatown)?

    Jun 21, 2005 | 4:48 pm


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  3. Virgilio P. Castillo says:

    After 26 years living abroad I had my first taste of santol last April when I was home for my hols. As a child I would eat and swallow the cottony seeds but that was a loooong time ago when I was still young and daring. But now neither I could! The tartness of green fruits like santol and mango (esp. the carabao variety) gives me the shivers (I sweat!). I love santol as ingredients for banana blossom kinilaw, and for fresh flat noodles.

    Jun 21, 2005 | 9:24 pm

  4. Bubut says:

    have you tasted the “sinantol” w/c is a delicacy of Quezon
    Province. They grate the pulp and squeeze the juice and
    cooked the pulp with coconut milk and alamang (small shrimp).
    It’s a good appetizer or something you paired with fried
    or grilled fish, of course with steaming rice..

    Jun 21, 2005 | 9:31 pm

  5. wysgal says:

    Your photos are great — do you take them yourself in a simple indoor setting?

    Jun 21, 2005 | 10:49 pm

  6. bugsybee says:

    I’ll go for the skin anytime. We had a Bangkok tree but after more than 40 years, its fruits are no longer as sweet as they used to be when I was a kid.
    So when are you experimenting with the jam again so you can share us the recipe? I almost drooled reading this post!

    Jun 22, 2005 | 1:14 am

  7. eD says:

    I grew up in Laguna and, oh boy, I remember savoring
    those fruits of the summer every year … and “santol”
    was just one of my favorites to snack on then.

    Have you ever tried those pickled santols? Oh man, I’m
    drooling just thinking about it. Your palate gets bombarded
    with a vinegary and, at the same time, sweet and soury taste. My tongue would get so raw after devouring a bunch of them
    in one sitting. Of course, the rock salt had a lot to do
    with it too.

    The flesh or the cottonny seeds? Honestly, I can’t recall
    eating them seeds at all. I do recall sucking on them
    cottony textures for as long as I could though — just before spitting them out. The seeds on them pickled santols were extra vinegary so I used to just suck on them for hours
    on end.

    Pass the salt pls …



    Jun 22, 2005 | 3:06 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Virgilio and other readers, do NOT swallow the santol seeds, EVER! They can cause serious intestinal blockages. I kid you not. I like the sweats that the sourness/tartness brings on, too! Bubut, no I haven’t tried sinantol yet but it sounds fantastic and will look out for it. Wysgal, the santol photo was taken indoors near a big glass window. There was full sun outside, the santols were on my marble pie block (where I roll my dough)and the camera a low pixel canon hand held by my shaky hands…I guess what I am saying is chamba lang the photos! The santol jam photos were scanned from a picture I took with tradional film last year. The colors got much darker…the actual jam was a caramel red hue. Bugsybee, I agree on skin all the time over the seeds. Ed, picked santol is delicious…pickling actually takes off some of the astringent edge. I only liked the skin pickled. Geez, so many santol fans out there…wish you were home to take advantage of the bumper crop this year!

    Jun 22, 2005 | 6:54 am

  9. Maricel says:

    If anyone is interested in pickling santol, here is how to do it. This recipe was taught to me by my classmate’s Mom way back when. It’s better to use the native variety. I tried doing it with the Bangkok kind but it didn’t turn out well, or maybe I did not let it sit long enough for the sugar syrup to do it’s work. Here goes… Pare santol and score some slits on the skin. Drop it into a salt-water mixture to prevent discoloration. Bring water to a boil. Blanch santol for 10 minutes or until the skin turns pinkish white. Pack into jars Prepare a syrup of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water and some salt to taste. Let boil. Cool thoroughly. Pour syrup into the prepared santol. Ferment for at least 3 days stirring once in a while. enjoy!

    Jun 22, 2005 | 8:40 am

  10. suzette says:

    santol seeds are indeed deadly when swallowed. i remember my father who was a surgeon, operating on a kid who accidentally swallowed a santol seed. good thing the kid was brought to the hospital as soon as he felt discomfort or else he would not have made it.

    Jun 22, 2005 | 4:16 pm

  11. luis says:

    how do you make santol juice?

    Jul 31, 2005 | 12:49 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Hi Luis – you know, I don’t know how to make santol juice. I have never even tasted it! I will ask around and if I get a recipe, I will send it to you!

    Jul 31, 2005 | 8:44 pm

  13. PinasarapFruits says:

    I’ve heard these are delicious, but I must say something to a comment in your article
    “It is probably the only tree in the Meliaceae family that has edible fruit.”
    Have you gone mad?! You forgot the delectable LANZONES!
    Okay, this comment is done.
    Everyone have a wonderful day!

    Aug 17, 2005 | 10:58 am

  14. Marketman says:

    Pinasarap, thanks for catching that. Funny how you do research and it can be so WRONG. I have a post on Lanzones coming in two days…stay tuned and thanks for catching that error.

    Aug 17, 2005 | 5:09 pm

  15. just_apeek says:

    nice trivia men, but what’s the english word for santol?

    Feb 6, 2006 | 4:51 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    I think Santol is the accepted English word for it. Actually, Santol is derived from Malay sentul or similar word in Indonesian. The Purdue University horticultural website, one of the best I have come across, refer to it as Santol.

    Feb 6, 2006 | 5:20 pm



    Sep 4, 2006 | 1:18 pm

  18. calvin says:

    can you help me make my project to make this email me please!!`thanks’ i need to make a santol jam

    Jun 21, 2007 | 9:59 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    calvin, if you bothered to search the archives, there is a recipe for santol jam.

    Jun 22, 2007 | 7:26 am

  20. laura1953 says:

    this is for luis asking how to make a santol juice.
    Drop some santol seeds in a pitcher (or any water container with spout). Pour water and let cool in the ref. for a day. You have your juice a day after. Mix the juice with sugar according to your taste.

    Jul 31, 2007 | 4:38 pm

  21. Marketman says:

    Hi Laura1953, thanks for that. I did make a santol juice in a later post…it’s in the archives…

    Jul 31, 2007 | 5:35 pm

  22. simplyme says:

    hi i just want to know if santol jam or juice is already out in the market and where i can buy. thanks…

    Dec 10, 2007 | 11:03 am

  23. stevied says:

    So you all know, A filipina friend of mine is raising her 5 year old daughter. She accidently swallowed a Santol seed. My friend thought it was food poisoning so took her straight to the hospital. The thing had ripped her poor little small intestine to shreds! 8 hours in surgery with 4 incision sites and two weeks recovery!! Thank God she took her quickly! Others have died from the resulting Peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdomen). DO NOT EAT THE SEEDS! The problem is the sharp edges and Wikipedia reports the are completely nondigestible so, if they don’t tear you up, they just build up in the bowels. They removed 26 sedds from the Descending Colon of an adult who died of Peritonitis!

    Oct 3, 2008 | 3:47 pm

  24. veronica francisco says:

    guys i need santol asap.. where can i buy santol this time.. please help me..thanks

    Dec 4, 2008 | 11:28 am

  25. Jonathan B. says:

    I have lived in the Philippines for the past 5 years…….I am moving back to the U.S. soon with my Filipina wife and wish there was some way to get Santol’s back home, among other filipino fruits…….I love their bitterness and I think that my sister, who loves bitter things would endjoy them too.


    Jun 11, 2009 | 8:39 am

  26. atejane says:

    hi there! any body there who knows how to cook adobong santol, bicol express na santol,sweet and sour na santol and santol marmalade…I need a recipe of these…anybody plese help me…please…I need it badly ASAP…Thanks!

    Jul 24, 2009 | 3:29 pm

  27. MrsKookie says:

    Would anybody know where I can get santol at this time of the year? Im pregnant and craving, hehehe

    Aug 14, 2009 | 5:46 pm


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