Originally published on October 17, 2015
Fruit of the Philippines – Aratilis
Almost part of any Filipino childhood is eating the organic fruit snack, aratilis. Also known as the mansanitas (tiny apples) in my province, its scientific name is Muntingia calabura. It is small tree that grows about 7 to 12 meters. This makes it easy for children to reach up and grab its fruit or climb it. However, climbing is not advised because its branches are thin and can not bear weight well.
The aratilis is popular among Filipinos because it’s a ready-to-eat fruit snack. With juicy sweet pulp and miniature seeds that you can eat with each bite, it can be an addictive treat. Our common rivals for it are the fruit bats that often stay up in the tree at night.
Summer is often when the aratilis tree flowers and blooms. Much like the apple tree (or mansanas in Filipino), it starts off with green unripe fruit that’s hard and bitter and later on, it ripens to give you soft, ripe, red and juicy fruit.
Due to to the fructose content in its fruit, the aratilis is not only a source of happy summer moments but also of good energy and fun for children of all ages.
What fruit brings you back to happy childhood memories?
What Is Aratilis and Where Can You Find It?
Much like the cherry tree, the Aratilis tree made it as a childhood memory for so many people out there because it is a small tree, measuring somewhere between 5 and 10 meters at most, making it really easy for children to climb it. No wonder this was such an attraction for kids, especially considering its delicious fruits, that are juicy, red and ready to consume when raw. These beautiful fruits hold the same amount of fascination to kids, as they do to birds and fruit bats, making it a permanently tight battle regarding who gets to eat these natural candies.
The flowers of these trees are white, long-pedicelled and usually grow solitary or in pairs. The tree is very popular in the Philippines nowadays, but it originated in Tropical America, after which it gained wide recognition and began to be thoroughly cultivated in this gorgeous Pacific Ocean country.
The Aratilis tree quickly found ways to spread across the globe, its presence being reported in all four corners of the world. You can find it in the West Indies, as well as in Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, California and India in the US. It’s also been naturalized in Australia, South East Asia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Spain, East Africa and various islands in the Indian Ocean. This tree can live up to 30 years and can reproduce quickly, which makes it easy for an entire Aratilis forest to quickly gain territory.
Due to its versatility and fast-growing abilities, this tree and its fruits have seen many ways in which it can be used around the world. In India, for example, you’ll see it more often than not in parking lots and urban gardens, while in Brazil the trees are strategically planted along riverbanks, since their fruits attract fish, possibly making it easier for fishermen to catch fish.
Aratilis Health Benefits
Aratilis, this amazing berry fruit also known as Kerson fruit, is actually packed with loads of vitamins and antioxidants, boasting properties that boost your health and help relieve symptoms of certain conditions.
One of the most important advantages that aratilis has on your health is the vitamin C amount it packs in and the benefits that follow with it. In 100 g of these berries you’ll find 150 mg of vitamin C, a strong aid in combating colds and the flu, as well as a factor in improving some cardiovascular diseases.
These juicy red berries are also an impressive powerhouse of antioxidants, they key elements when it comes to fighting off the body’s aging process at cellular level. Another health benefit these berries have is provided by their antibacterial properties. In recent years, antibiotics have been used so intensely that they can no longer efficiently fight bacteria, since now there are more resistant, mutated forms. This is where Kerson fruit comes in fighting intestinal bacteria, diphtheria and staph.
If you suffer from headaches, it may be due to a constriction of the blood vessels. Aratilis berries are also known to relax blood vessels, which in turn leads to a more fluid blood flow and a decreased risk of headaches.
Diabetics are sufferers who constantly need to monitor their blood sugar levels, ensuring they are under certain parameters. If you introduce the Kerson fruit in your diabetic diet, you may see a decrease in your blood sugar levels, which means less medication and injections. In countries where this fruit is prevalent, its consumption is already common as a prevention technique against diabetes.
There are few fruits out there that pack in so many health benefits, but the aratilis really does check off a lot of boxes in becoming your favorite health ally. Another great way in which the consumption of this fruit can serve you is if you suffer from gout. It’s well-known that gout sufferers will get considerable pain relief if they include Kerson fruit in their daily diets. In gout, if you can make the pain go away, you’ve won half the battle.
Kerson fruit is also a miracle worker when consumed as tea. You’ll find that you can drink tea made from dried up Kerson fruit leaves, that were then crushed and served as base for tea. One stunning property of the Kerson fruit tea is that it actually has the ability to block pain receptors. The fruit itself can alleviate pain, but the tea actually stops the pain stimuli messages to be sent from your body to your brain. This is kind of like an opiate, without all the side effects that makes things more difficult.
If you drink this tea, you’ll also notice a positive effect when it comes to inflammation in the body, specifically in the joints and tissues. You can also count on this tea to improve your digestion – by drinking it, you can calm gas cramps and even an upset stomach.
Your blood pressure will also go down when regularly drinking the Kerson fruit tea. Vessel constriction, as a condition, can be very dangerous, since it brings forth vessel pressure that in turn leads to strokes and heart attacks. Having said this, this tea is great all around in preventing inflammation that’s specific to heart conditions.
Although more studies are needed in order to consider this fruit an absolutely irreplaceable factor in the fight against cancer, studies show that aratilis contains a very important compound named flavanone. This is a biochemical substance that’s not only good for the heart, but that’s also been shown to inhibit tumor cells from growing. The cytotoxic flavonoids that aratilis contains are also said to be a great aid in cancer prevention.
As if this fruit wasn’t already wonderful in terms of the health benefits it has, you should know the flavonoids these berries contain are a great aid in maintaining the normal function of the brain. Adults that suffer from mild cognitive impairment should see improvement in their cognitive function when regularly consuming this miraculous tea.
Due to its fiber content, aratilis will stave off cholesterol and fats from your body, while also soothing your stomach. Additionally, aratilis is also a great assistant in your fight against upsetting gastric ulcers.
Lastly, you need to know these berries, small as they are, are also a powerful combination of vitamins and nutrients that keep the body young and strong. Having said this, it’s important to remember that 100 g of aratilis will give you 4.6 mgs of fiber, 124.6 mgs of calcium and 0.384 mgs of protein. That’s not all, you’ll also get to benefit from good amounts of iron, vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, tiamin, carotene, riboflavin and niacin.
Aratilis does not only play well with humans in terms of the benefits it brings, but also with the planet, since it’s very environmentally friendly. It seems that aratilis trees can grow in poor soil and tolerate acidic conditions, while also standing up well in times of drought. Since these trees shed a large amount of branch litter and leaf, they can widely and successfully be used in reforestation projects in underdeveloped areas, while also contributing to the improvement of the soil and the adaptation of other nearby trees. To this end, it’s safe to say aratilis is a fruit that keeps on giving and the tree it comes from is also very giving with the environment that nurtures it.
Depending on where you live, you can get these extraordinary berries in Latin markets or at regular farmer’s markets. Either way, once you discover them, be certain you’ll benefit from a multitude of advantages, apart from a savory taste that may remind you of blissful childhood.