Welcome to my childhood.
And I, with playmates, hop from one hedge of bushes to another in search for wild berries. That got me the perfect tan (which here in the Philippines is not considered pretty) a good immune system, and I think built the foundations of my food curiosity.
Cape gooseberry (a.k.a. laptukay)
The ultimate summer fruit for children…wild berries.
The classic is the gooseberry … laptukay. Native gooseberries. When ripe, the outer petals (are they even called petals?) covering the fruit turns light yellow and the berry inside swells. Ripe fruit tastes a little sweet, a bit sour and texture is like saliva. Imagine your saliva with little, little white seeds. In old rice fields after a long time of non- irrigation, grasses grow and wild quails inhabit, so do these laptukay populate. I would go through tall grasses, sometimes getting scratches on my limbs, and insect bites – but all of that was nothing compared to the euphoria of finding a golden laptukay plant. A bursting bite… seek the gold in thy world.
Along this fruit are its colorful comrades, the controversial kalampunay , a curious plant with velvety, tomato- like, seductive fruit. This is known to have drug properties like the marijuana plant, and a few years ago I heard that in our village (which used to be a rice field), authorities were in the lookout for this. There was also the gin- gin , wild red juicy berries grown in hedges to separate one land territory from another.
The native passion fruit speaks its own fashion. I am not sure though if this (this dulce kurumbot) is technically of the passion fruit family but a priest who visited my grandmother saw the flowers and it resembles that of the real passion fruit. The flowers are one of the world’s most beautiful… and later only sacrifice their lovely beauty to the little delightful baby fruits. Green, and caged in a delicate plant shell that when opened, they smell like the juicy passion fruit with only a mild grassy scent. The mere thought of its sour- sweet taste extracts my salivary juices writing this down…
I remember as a child climbing the roof of my grandparents’ house to harvest a skirtful of passion fruits; the dark seeds, the cool pulp, the very fruity smell so reminiscent of summer. According to a book, passion fruit is called that way not because of romantic passion but more of the passion of Christ- if you observe the flowers, there are little crosses there. The flowers of the dulce kurumbot exactly have the same structure of the passion fruit widely available. I can’t put the pieces together, but I can fairly associate passion fruit harvest during the Holy Week – and my grandparents. Probably because during Holy Week, school is over and therefore I had all the time to go food- hunting while reverberating in my memory the sung “pasyon” – the suffering of Christ- recited in Spanish by old women in our province.
Then my grandmother would have a stick in her hand to whack me for climbing her roof which was so unlikely for young girls, who are supposed to be prim and proper and must stay indoors..
I think I did stay indoors well too much- in the kitchen most specially, and as much as I have this desire to have a collection of the wild fruits I used to enjoy when I was a child, I might also consider making laptukay- dulce kurumbot dessert one of these days… That is, if I find them.