The heat is sweltering and summer is probably nearing its peak. The leafy greens and water dependent vegetables that were so abundant and so robust just weeks ago are now disappearing from the markets (or at least available to a much lesser degree), and the focus on produce is shifting to root crops and all of those summer fruits. Several fruits are ripening simultaneously in an annual effort to propagate themselves and seed the countryside before the rainy seasonâ€¦ Sineguelas is another one of those â€œchildhood memory fruitsâ€ that conjure up images of summer, beach holidays, or hanging out in a neighborâ€™s backyard shooting the breeze and munching on these summer gems. Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea) or Spanish Plum in English, is a native to Mexico and the western coast of Central and South America. Brought over by the Spaniards, it has taken very well to the Philippine archipelago and thrives here, according to Doreen Fernandez.
The fruit are approximately 1 to 1.5 inches in length and start off purplish or maroon green and ripen to a yellow or dark red state. The skin is taut and shiny and the flesh firm when unripened and slightly astringent (I like them this way) or soft, sweet and mushy when they are truly ripe. They are in season from April to June or so but they seem to peak in May. Although mostly consumed as a fruit, some regions cook the raw fruit in sinigang or use it in kinilaw according to Doreen Fernandezâ€™s book on Philippine Fruit. In other countries, the fruit is made into jelly, pickled in vinegar, or dried to preserve the fruit. In my early teens, I ate kaing (large basket measure) after kaing of this fruit. On a trip to Cebu to visit my grandmother, she asked me and a British friend what we would like from the market and we said â€œsineguelasâ€ and a whole kaing appeared in the house later in the dayâ€¦ we consumed so much it that it caused serious plumbing problems and the methane we released over the next 24 hours was probably enough to fire up a small stove! Recently at the market, sineguelas were PHP50 a kilo but that should decline further in the next few weeks as supply increases dramatically.