Pinoys are known to be lovers of sweet-sour mouth-watering fruits — the ones that put the taste glands into a frenzy. Santol, true to its delightful sweet and sour taste, has been and still is the favorite fruit of people of all ages, especially in the rural areas. Produced in great abundance — as santol trees can be found almost anywhere—santol is regarded as “for everyone’s taking”. Yet this rather popular fruit has always taken the backseat to other more established fruits like banana and mango.
Santol is a tropical fruit native to the regions of Indochina. Along with other South East Asian countries, it was introduced and naturalized in the Philippines hundreds of years ago. Most people refer to it as ‘santol’, ‘wild mangosteen’, or in most English countries, as the ‘lolly fruit’ because you literally have to suck the seeds to get its essence. Aside from the fact that it is commonly tagged as a shade tree in our country, santol provides other uses and benefits that we don’t consider of high importance.
There are numerous reasons why we should start putting santol into the limelight, and not merely look at it as underutilized, traditional, or simply just a promising fruit.
Low farming maintenance. As it is known to most of us, the santol tree is found throughout the country. It can be planted under a wide range of soil types and flourishes in both dry and humid areas of Philippine lowlands. Santol can be grown in the backyards of our homes, and it is guaranteed to mature even with a minimum of management. It is only for commercial planting and fruit grade that a santol tree must be planted such that distance to other trees is considered and given its proper nourishment to hasten its growth. For maximum yield, it requires fertilization twice a year. It is easily reproduced by various means – seeds, air-layering, inarching, or by budding onto -rootstocks. Harvesting is usually done with the bare hands or by using a long stick with a forked end. Generally, the cultivation of santol is not as demanding as other fruit-bearing tropical trees can be.
Santol is a very productive tree. Normally, seed trees produce fruits five to seven years after planting. Described as a hardy tree of vigorous and rapid growth, a santol tree thrives well even where the dry season is prolonged. Truly productive, a full grown tree can be relied on to produce around 18,000 to 24,000 fruits every year. In fact, huge quantities rot on the ground annually because of such copiousness.
Packed with good nutrition. Like most other tropical fruit, santol contains vitamins and minerals that boost our body’s immunity. It is rich in Vitamins B and C, which, respectively, promotes proper cell metabolism, and strengthens and protects the immune system against cardiovascular diseases. It also contains fair amounts of carbohydrates, iron, fiber, and phosphorus. Chewing santol also contributes to healthier teeth as it stimulates the production of saliva and lowers the levels of bacteria, thus reducing tooth decay.
Has anti-allergy properties. Imagine the convenience of having an anti-allergy food right in the comfort of our own backyards? The pulp of the santol fruit is rich in bryonolic and sandorinic acids which are known to have anti-allergy properties. These acids are produced through cultures of santol plant cells. With further studies and development of clinical processes and protocols, santol can be established as a remedy for certain allergies.
An all-natural souring agent. Sinigang is one Filipino dish that we all love. Nowadays, santol has become a favorite souring ingredient. It surely gives a healthy, luscious, salivating sour taste perfect for sinigang dishes!
Jams and jellies, anyone? Santol fruit (with seeds removed) and rind is perfect for making candies, jams, jellies. Santol also makes a good preserve. Here in the Philippines, the fruits are peeled by removing the seeds and boiling the rind with sugar, preserved in syrup, and processed into marmalades for export. According to some Filipino entrepreneurs, such products are a favorite in Europe and the United States.
A ringworm counter agent. The bitter bark of the santol tree which contains a slightly toxic alkaloid and a steroidal sapogenin, has a good reputation for the treatment of ringworm, a common fungal infection of the skin. The bark is powdered and applied to the affected skin. This might be considered traditional especially in Philippine rural cultures but it has scientific backing. Steroidal sapogenins from santol, can be chemically synthesized into cortisones, a known substance for the treatment of skin diseases.
Bottoms-Up! Ever heard of Santol wine? With this fruit, nothing is wasted. Overripe santol fruits can be fermented with rice to make an alcoholic drink. It’s healthy, and easy to do.
Would a wood…? According to J.F. Morton, author of the book, “Fruits of Warm Climates,” the wood of the santol tree can also be used for construction. It is fairly hard, moderately heavy, close-grained and polishes well. However it is not always of good quality. It is not durable when moist and is subject to borers. But since it is plentiful, easy to work with, and very popular that, as Morton stated, if carefully seasoned the wood can be employed for house posts, interior construction, light framing, barrels, cabinet work, boats, carts, household utensils, carvings, and accents. The bark is also used in tanning fishing lines.
Folkloric-but-tried-and-tested medicinal uses. Interestingly, the aromatic, astringent root serves as a tonic for women after childbirth. The roots may be boiled and made into a tea to help ease diarrhea and dysentery. It may also be mixed with vinegar and water to relieve other intestinal problems. Leaf decoction is used to bathe patients with fever, causing sweating thus reducing fever.
…and just by being the santol fruit that it is…Apart from all of the many things we get from santol, Filipinos will always include this in their fruit basket. Santol can be a snack by itself because the fruit can be eaten as it is. Dipped in salt or vinegar, this mouth-watering fruit will always be among the well-loved fruits in the Philippines, thus assuring a big, constant market.
Realizing the many uses and benefits from a certain produce is the first step in regarding it as an important crop or fruit. Consequently, researchers, agriculturists, scientists, policy makers, and extensionists will pay attention to such a crop and will begin to build ways to harness its potentials, create strategies, and establish policies in the sustained development. This can be the case not only of santol, but all the other crops that receive little or no attention at all.
It is comforting to know that in the field of agriculture, concerned agencies—especially the Department of Agriculture—are initiating efforts to reach out to the masses, first and foremost, reacquainting them on our abundant but mostly ignored local food resources. Promoting Pinoy fruits can be a big leap benefitting the fruit industry which can contribute to assuring food security and improved incomes for the Filipino farmer.
There is still so much to improve in santol: from cultivation, production and by-product development , harvesting and post-harvesting, marketing, to policy recommendations. With continued efforts and coordination among concerned agencies, the development of the underutilized fruits can contribute significantly to the attainment of the Department’s vision on Philippine Food Security. ###
1. Santol: A closer look at the ‘underdog’ of fruits. The International Tropical Fruits Network. Retrieved from: http://www.itfnet.org/v1/2012/01/santol-a-closer-look-at-the-%E2%80%98underdog%E2%80%99-of-fruits/
2. The Pharmacological Properties of Terpenoids from Sandoricum Koetjape. Z.D.Nassar, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Retrieved from: http://www.webmedcentral.com/article_view/1311
3. Santol. Sandoricum koetjape Merr. Retrieved from: http://www.stuartxchange.org/Santol.html
4. Medicinal Use of Santol and Its Many Health Benefits. Retrieved from: http://www.all-about-philippine-fruits-and-herbs.com/Medicinal-Use-of-Santol.html
5. Fruits of Warm Climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. 1987. Santol, p. 199-201. Retrieved from: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/santol.html
6. The Sweet and Sour Fruit Called Santol. H.D.Tacio, Agriculture Business Week. Retrieved from: http://www.agribusinessweek.com/this-sweet-and-sour-fruit-called-santol/
By: Daryl Lou A. Battad, BAR Digest October-December 2012 Issue (Vol. 14 No. 4)