Monday, March 21, 2016

The Wonders of Siniguelas (Spondias purpurea)

Siniguelas is also known as red mombin, Spanish plum, purple plum, java plum, red plum, purple mombin or wild plum. 

Dr Abe V Rotor




Ripe fruits in two stages.Siniguelas is a drupe - it has stone heart which is said to be poisonous.

Siniguelas tree in summer bloom. Agoo, La Union



The author is assisted by a farmer to cut a portion of the bark of the tree. The bark is boiled as a remedy for dysentery, stomach ulcer, hyperacidity, and bloating caused by indigestion.

We call it in Ilocos sarguelas, but when I moved to Manila, it is called siniguelas or ciruelas this local plum which comes in various names in different parts of the world.  It is the same Spondias purpurea in scientific parlance.

So when you go to a tropical country where this weird looking tree is found growing in the wild and on wasteland, just examine the tree as shown in the second photo.  That is at fruiting time when it loses its leaves like any deciduous tree, and in their places sprout hundreds of fruits closely attached to the branches and stems.  

We kids in our time found the tree a favorite aerial playground full of  fruits and laughter, then we would silently descend with heavy feeling and rush to a nearly thicket to relieve ourselves. And if relief did not come early, it was because we did not heed our old folks' warning not to eat too much of the fruit especially with empty stomach. And they used to warn us never, never to eat the seed.  It is highly poisonous! Fortunately the seed is too large, rough, and hard to be digested. So far I haven't known of any casualty. 

Why are kids in a siniguelas country healthy and sturdy? Tang Inti our village herbolario said, “Just look at me.”  He was running eighty. And he mentioned names who too, in their time were like us, siniguelas boys. 

Later in college I learned the outstanding health benefits and medicinal value of sininuegas. It's like litany:

·        It is high in calcium, phosphorus, ascorbic acid and amino acids like lysine, methionine, threonine and tryptophan. Whatever these are, just believe in pharmacology and the science of medicine. 

·        The book tells us further, siniguelas is rich in vitamin C on the level of citrus and guava.  Vitamin C boosts our immune system.  It is also an antioxidant which helps in cells regeneration and conservation. Then there are other plus factors we simply raise our brows. 

  • Siniguelas cleanses as diuretic, enhancing elimination of urine, it is antispasmodic which prevents muscle spasms.

  • When boiled the fruit is antiseptic which means it prevents infection of wounds and heals mouth sores. 

  • Thus it is also used to clean wounds, burns and cuts. Would a medical doctor do the same? He knows that the fruit extract and sap of the bark have has antibacterial properties. It is alternative medicine, reminiscent of the late Dr Juan Flavier who sponsored the bill of Alternative Medicine into law in the eighties.  

  • This puts the herbolario into a limelight. He prescribes eating siniguelas to control  chronic diarrhea or prevent LBM.  He may not know the scientific explanation but he also prescribes the fruit extract to cure infantile stomatitis (nflammation of the mucous lining in the oral cavity or the mouth. 

  • The komadrona or village midwife prescribes the sap of the leaves to treat vaginal thrush, a common fungal infection in the female genital caused by the fungus Candida albicans. 

  • Another home remedy is to shred the leaves and combine the tree's resin with pineapple to create a concoction for curing jaundice or the yellowish pigmentation of the skin.

Seldom is siniguelas served on the dining table. It is usually eaten fresh.  In Ilocano, old folks would call eating siniguelas as saramsam (local snack).

Basang, my auntie yaya, an expert cook of native dishes has recipes made of siniguelas that would put to the backseat modern culinary recipes. She would prepare for the family siniguelas tart, siniguelas  jelly, siniguelas sauce. Sinigang with siniguelas?  Why not?  It's like sinigang with guava, and santol as substitutes to kamias and sampalok.

Lastly, these siniguelas products are rare to find. Siniguelas wine, and siniguelas vinegar. They are not in the market, but in some cellars in remote Ilocos where siniguelas grows in the wild, a burnay (earthen jar) of aged siniguelas wine awaits a special occasion, perhaps a town fiesta, or a baptism or wedding in the family.~  

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