Monday, August 17, 2009

Ceriles, Local "Cherries"

My family was served these fruits in Mangaldan, Pangasinan some four years ago, the first time I encountered them. They were called ceriles or siriles, or, strangely enough, "cherries."

Fast forward to the present, and my favorite organic vendor at the public market in Cavite City is selling these fruits, in a heaping pile on a big bilao at Php20 a kilo, and calls them cherries. I purchase half a kilo, and when I get home the househelp point to the tree in front of our residence, where I always espy teens and matrons looking it up, sometimes picking a fruit from its tiny branches, or inspecting the fallen ones on the pavement.

The tree certainly looks like a cherry blossom tree, with a spreading crown, similar to the acacia on our own front lawn, tiny leaves not too tightly packed. The trunk is slim, the bark pale. It started bearing fruit by the end of summer, little green globes slightly bigger than a marble, or an aratiles. Twigs and branches are covered with a row of tiny, star-shaped white flowers.

The leaves are waxy and look so much like agdaw (alagaw, fragrant pemna) leaves, though on a very much smaller scale. The green fruits sprout in singles, so definitely they're not real cherries. I once tried biting into a green one, before knowing it was the same fruit we ate in Mangaldan, and it was hard and bitter.

The ripe fruits are soft but unyielding, with the color variation of caimitos - olive green to reddish to violet. I found them too sour in the past, but this time around I got the flavor of ripe plums. Definitively plums, even the texture of the flesh, with a very sweet aftertaste.

The flesh is the color of butter, though, and there are small, squash-like seeds in undefined segments. Which makes them not really pleasurable to eat, though if you're whiling away the afternoon roaming around and you pick these from the tree, and you munch on them while you inspect the other parts of the neighborhood, they could be a passable sweet chichirya.

I imagine riding a bike with the baby on a basket in front, and we pick these, and we proceed to spit out the seeds while chewing on the fruit, and we help in propagating the species. I noticed an alagaw-looking plant growing in my front lawn while tending to an ambitious garden project last weekend. Maybe I should re-inspect it.

rusting upon contact with air

But this discovery had me searching sites for possible clues as to what kind of fruit it is. I remain clueless. So I'm doing the next best thing - thinking where I could use it. Cook it into a jam, perhaps? Or maybe in baked desserts, substituting it for plums. Maybe dry them into prunes. I certainly would like them in a cake, or in a sweet pastry bar, as they are very sweet.

Update 8/25/09 : Antonio Medina kindly pointed out that the tree in front of my house (2nd photo above, showing a green globe and flowers on a twig) is actually mansanitas, not seriles (so that's how it's spelled?). Another intriguing fruit, mansanitas, which translates as "little apples." I'm excited waiting for the fruit to ripen so I could taste them!


Mrs. L said...

I'm no help here either. I say if they taste like plums a bit, make things that usually have plums in them? A jam might be interesting.

Kai said...

Yep, I've been searching for plum recipes. Those pesky little seeds can be a problem, though.

Antonio Medina said...

The branch with fruits and flowers is not from seriles but from mansanitas common in Cavite coastal areas. Seriles fruit cling like longans and tribe in the upland of Cavite. Many trees were destroyed by people using firewoods. I have one in my farm and will try to propagate it. Taste like your description of it.

Kai said...

I live by the bay so that must be mansanitas alright. I've heard of that fruit, too, but have yet to see them again. So now I have a tree in front of my house.

I actually saw clumps of seriles-looking fruit near our neighborhood, the fruit crowded at the top of the tree which is strangely bereft of leaves. Maybe that's the real seriles tree.

Thanks for the info! Will update the post.

Antonio Medina said...

Hi Kai,

I enjoy viewing your blog. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Before you get frustrated after you tasted your first mansanitas I have to tell you that, unlike seriles, not all mansanitas taste the same. There are varieties that taste really good, sweet like apple. Mansanitas (small apple) is the small version of Jujube common in Taiwan and the Middle East especially Israel. It grows in the Phils too.

Kai said...

I think I got unripe ones, that's why they tasted bitter. I'm waiting for those in the tree to ripen so I could properly taste them.