Thursday, March 11, 2010

Katuray

As the heat intensifies the surroundings become awash with vibrant color. Nature loves to come out in the heat, in every color imaginable and even in varying shades. That's why we have flower festivals and festivals honoring the Virgin Mother with flowers during summer.

But there is one tree who appears to counteract the intensity of hues during the season. But it still looks festive, like a host to thousands of immaculately white butterflies come home to roost in its crown, finding haven after a tiring but filling day flitting from one bright flower to the next.

And that's how the katuray tree looks like during summer. Its blossoms, prized for its anti-hypertensive benefits, appear like folded white butterfly wings. When the tree flowers, the tree top burgeons with the blossoms. The tree blossoms generously, for all the neighbors within the block who didn’t have the wisdom to plant their own katuray tree on their own front yards.

It is difficult to find katuray blossoms in markets because they are so delicate and fragile, like real butterfly wings, bruising easily. Harvested from the tree they discolor within the day. So it’s best to cook them right after gathering. At most there will be one or a couple of vendors selling a small bilao of the blossom, probably a surfeit after all the neighbors have had their fill.

afternoon wilt

I saw a tray of the blossoms, though, this evening, at the vegetable section of the SM Hypermarket at the Mall of Asia. I was so amazed I stopped breathing for a full minute. I’ve been seeing vegetables of my childhood there lately – tonight there were baskets of native sitaw, samsamping, and even baeg, apart from the tray of katuray.

They were all in good shape, as far as I could tell, and my heart fluttered with happiness, because now I could get a taste of home more frequently. These are not known and never eaten in my adopted home in Cavite, and I only get to have them when the family goes on a trek to Pangasinan during long holidays, or when I get the craving so hard that I lug a big bag to the Guadalupe market in Makati to locate my suki (favorite) Ilocana vegetable vendor.


Katuray blossoms are cooked simply. In Pangasinan we either steam them, eating them dipped in a sauce of kalamansi juice and agamang (salted fermented krill), or boil them with fish in a sinigang (soured broth). Before cooking, a curling pistil is removed from among the enfolding diaphanous petals, and then the green stamen is detached.

katuray in sinigang na Bonuan bangus

For the ultra-sensitive tastebuds of a young child, there is a certain bitter edge to the taste of cooked katuray, so that I grew up not being fond of it. But I do not have a problem eating it now – it is ironic how even those vegetables I had previously loathed I now find myself craving for. My desensitized tongue now cannot detect even a hint of bitterness and I'm the better for it, as it aids in keeping me strapping fit.


Related Posts
Native Sitaw
Baeg
Sinigang na Bangus

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ilocano call this "katuday".

Kai said...

Yes, Ilocanos and Pangasinenses share a lot of things, including fruits vegetables and their names. The phonetic difference of the "r" and "d" in katuray/katuday is probably due to which letter is more commonly/more conveniently used in our respective languages.

Kai said...

But when you pronounce katuray and katuday nasally, they sound the same, don't they? I'm just amused. I studied linguistics so I get a high on things like this. ;-) Thanks for the input.

ut-man said...

Wow! katuray is now in season? And your sinigang na bangus with katuray keeps me drooling. I just love katuray bloosoms, I just blanch them with boiling water for a few minutes and serve with kamatis, lasona and bagoong munamon.

JOSH said...

Kai,

You never fail to bring smile to my face whenever I get the chance to read your blog. I miss home! I wish all Pangasinenses would share the same enthusiasm about our heritage...Thank you for taking me home....

Kai said...

Yes, Ut-Man, it's in season. Lots of white butterflies up there. I read somewhere that Ilocanos eat katuray in that KBL (kamatis, bagoong, lasona) salad. You've confirmed it for me. I'll try that next time.

Josh, you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

How could they say that katuray is a potent anti-hypertensive? What is the action of this plant?

Kai said...

I'm not sure if it's just old wives' tale, but all elderly people, particularly hypertensive ones, eat katuray.