Like a juvenile lover, summer, it seems, came early this year. And so, sweaty and lethargic, here I sit writing about how I spent my summers.
My childhood summers were always spent playing cops and robbers with my cousins using aratiles* trees as our base where, if we were the cops, we "incarcerated" the robbers. If you saw me climbing up an aratiles tree, you'd easily agree with Darwin that humans came from monkeys.
My cousins and I put my grandparents' aratiles tree to good use every summer. We would re-fabricate the palo china New Year noisemakers shaped like guns into aratiles launchers by fashioning rubber bands into slingshot-like contraptions . The sturdy aratiles stem would be clipped, and the rubber band would hold back the fruit and launch it to the target.
The green, unripe aratiles fruit which is hard and small like an airsoft pellet, was for scaring off any attackers. They hurt like hell. The red-orange ripe fruits were ammunition reserved for pelting the enemy until they were covered in the sweet, gooey flesh of the fruit. I can't really recall how one wins the game anymore. I just remember always being hosed down after each game.
We would also make aratiles shake and aratiles ice candy using condensed milk and water. Aratiles has never been sold commercially because of its abundance and a seemingly common dislike for the texture of the fruit. I like eating them fresh when they are manibalang (half-ripe), like a pearl-sized glossy Fuji apple and firm yet sweet and soft enough to pop in your mouth. The skin would be a bit tough but I swallowed them anyway.
Aside from the aratiles, summer fruits that bring good memories of summer are the caimito, macopa, siniguelas, balimbing and chico (Please see below for other common names of these fruits) .
It was always during summer, too, that we would get baskets of ripe mangoes from relatives in the province. Though I haven't tasted all mango varieties, I think many will agree when I say that there is nothing like Philippine mangoes.
The saccharine fragrance and the syrupy golden yellow juice that trickles from the plump cheeks when you bite into it always remind me of happy summers past.
When you've tasted Philippine mangoes, you will understand the meaning of sun-ripened sweetness.
So here is my mango recipe. It doesn't sound like much but it is great with tortilla chips, blanched vegetables (okra and eggplant), grilled meat, poultry and fish and adobo. It keeps for about two weeks if refrigerated.
Smooth Yellow Mango Salsa (Sweet and Spicy)
1 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes
1 cup ripe mango
1/2 cup onions
1/2 cup cucumber
2 cloves garlic
5 tbsps yellow mango puree
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
a sprig of fresh coriander
a sprig of green onion leaves
1/8 teaspoon sun-dried and crushed chili pepper
3 tablespoons honey
Just blend in everything in a fruit processor. If you don't have one chop and mix in everything. This should be mildly hot. Keep refrigerated.
*ARATILES Muntingia calabura. Common names include (English) Jamaican cherry, Panama berry, Singapore cherry, Strawberry tree; (Spanish) bolaina yamanaza, cacaniqua, capulín blanco, nigua, niguito, memizo or memiso; and (Filipino) aratilis, aratiles, manzanitas.
CAIMITO Chrysophyllum cainito. Common names include caimito or estrella (Spanish); cainito or ajara (Portuguese); caimite or caimitier, pied caimite or caimitier a feuilles d'or, pomme surette (French); cainit (Virgin Islands); caimite or kaimit (Trinidad & Tobago); star-plum (Barbados); caimo, caimo morado or caimito maduraverde (Colombia); guayabillo (El Salvador); aguay or olivoa (Argentina); Golden Leaf or Star Apple (USA) and "chicle durian" (Singapore).
MACOPA Syzygium samarangense. Common names include wax apple, love apple, java apple, chomphuMận (in Vietnam), bellfruit (Taiwan), Jamaican Apple ( Jamaica),jambu air (in Indonesia), water apple, mountain apple, jambu air or"water guava" (Malaysia), wax jambu, rose apple, bell fruit (USA), jamrul (India), and jumbu (Sri Lanka).
SINIGUELAS Spondias purpurea. Common names include it is called jobo, yellow mombin or hog plum (Caribbean and Mexico); Spanish plum or gully plum (Jamaica); .hog plum or Ashanti plum (Ghana); iyeye (Nigeria) golden apple or Java plum, cajá (Brazil) and makawk (Thai.)
BALIMBING Averrhoa carambola. Common names are carambola, Chinese gooseberry and star fruit.
CHICO Manilkara achras. Common names include, chikoo, chiku , sobeda or sapota (India and Pakistan); Sabudheli (Maldives), sawo (Indonesia); hồng xiêm, lồng mứt, xa pô chê or Siamese persimmon (Vietnam)); lamoot (Thailand, Laos and Cambodia); Sapodilla (Guayana, Trinindad & Tobago); naseberry (Jamaica); sapathilla or rata-mi (Sir Lanka); zapote (Colombia, El Salvador, Dominican republic); níspero (Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Dominican Republic); dilly or nasberry (Bahamas); chico sapote (Mexico and USA); ciku or sawo nilo (Malaysia)