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Fruit of the Philippines – Aratilis

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Almost part of 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 a 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’t bear weight well.

The plant species is also called muntingia calabura, often abbreviated to M. calabura.

The aratilis is popular among Filipinos because it’s a ready-to-eat fruit snack. With juicy sweet pulp and tiny seeds that you can eat with each bite, it can be an addictive treat. Our familiar rivals for it are the fruit bats that often stay up in the tree at night.

aratilis muntingia calabura tropical fruit
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Summer is often when the aratilis tree flowers and blooms. Much like the apple tree (or mansanas in Filipino), it starts with unripe green fruit that’s hard and bitter, and later on, it ripens to give you soft, ripe, red, and juicy fruit.

Due to the fructose content in its fruit, the aratilis is a source of happy summer moments, 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?

aratilis muntingia calabura leaves on spring
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Much like the cherry tree, the Aratilis tree was made as a childhood memory for so many people out there because it is a small tree, measuring between 5 and 10 meters at most, making it easy for children to climb it. No wonder this was such an attraction for kids, especially considering its delicious fruits, which are juicy, red, and ready to consume when raw. These beautiful fruits hold the same fascination to kids as 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 trendy in the Philippines nowadays. Still, 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. As a result, it 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 many ways in which it is used worldwide. In India, for example, you’ll see it more often than not in parking lots and urban gardens. In Brazil, the trees are strategically planted along riverbanks since their fruits attract fish, possibly making it easier for fishermen to catch fish.

Aratilis Fruit Health Benefits

aratilis muntingia calabura tree
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

This fantastic berry fruit, also known as Kerson fruit, is packed with loads of vitamins and antioxidants. It boasts properties that boost your health and help relieve symptoms of certain conditions.

Vitamin C

One of the most essential 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 (about 3.5oz) of these berries, you’ll find 150 mg of vitamin C, a potent aid in combating colds and the flu and a factor in improving some cardiovascular diseases.

Antioxidants

These juicy red berries are also an impressive powerhouse of antioxidants, vital in fighting off the body’s aging process at the 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 there are more resistant, mutated forms. This is where Kerson fruit fights intestinal bacteria, diphtheria, and staph.

If you suffer from headaches, it may be due to a constriction of the blood vessels. Aratilis berries also relax blood vessels, leading to a more fluid blood flow and a decreased risk of headaches.

Tackling Diabetes

People with diabetes constantly need to monitor their blood sugar levels and ensure they are under specific parameters. For example, suppose you introduce the Kerson fruit to your diabetic diet. In that case, you may see a decrease in your blood sugar levels, which means fewer medications and injections. In countries where this fruit is prevalent, its consumption is already daily as a prevention technique against diabetes.

Few fruits out there that pack in so many health benefits, but the aratilis does check off many 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. If you can make the pain disappear in gout, you’ve won half the battle.

Pain Relief

Kerson fruit is also a miracle worker when consumed as a tea. You’ll find that you can drink tea made from dried-up Kerson fruit leaves, which were then crushed and served as a base for tea. One stunning property of the Kerson fruit tea is that it can block pain receptors. So the fruit can alleviate pain, but the tea stops the pain stimuli messages sent from your body to your brain. This is like an opiate without all the side effects that make things more difficult.

Fights Inflammation

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 – drinking it can calm gas cramps and even an upset stomach.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure will also decrease when you regularly drink Kerson fruit tea. This is because 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 excellent all around in preventing inflammation that’s specific to heart conditions.

Can Help Fight Cancer

Although more studies are needed to consider this fruit an irreplaceable factor in the fight against cancer, studies show that aratilis contains a vital flavanone compound. 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. In addition, the cytotoxic flavonoids that aratilis contains are also said to be a great aid in cancer prevention.

Aids Brain Function

As if this fruit wasn’t already excellent in terms of its health benefits, you should know the flavonoids these berries contain are a great aid in maintaining the brain’s normal function. As a result, adults that suffer from mild cognitive impairment should see improvement in their cognitive function when regularly consuming this miraculous tea.

Lowers Cholesterol

Due to its fiber content, aratilis will stave off cholesterol and fats from your body while also soothing your stomach. Additionally, aratilis greatly assists your fight against upsetting gastric ulcers.

Lastly, you need to know these tiny berries 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 mg of fiber, 124.6 mg of calcium, and 0.384 mg of protein. But that’s not all; you’ll also benefit from reasonable amounts of iron, vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, thiamin, carotene, riboflavin, and niacin.

Aratilis isn’t just good for humans and the planet since it’s very environmentally friendly. Aratilis trees can grow in poor soil and tolerate acidic conditions while standing up well in times of drought. Furthermore, 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, 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 farmers’ markets. Either way, once you discover them, be sure you’ll benefit from many advantages, apart from a savory taste that may remind you of a blissful childhood.

Care of Aratilis

aratilis muntingia calabura leaf on white background
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Aratilis trees are pretty robust and don’t really need specialist soil. However, they should be watered plenty, despite their reputation as resistant to drought. It’s best to make sure they have enough water and not take the risk.

The one thing they don’t deal particularly well with is the cold. So it’s best to ensure they’re planted in full view of the sun and away from areas where cooler air might stagnate. If you live somewhere with harsh winters, it might be that growing aratilis isn’t for you, unfortunately. However, feel free to try – the tree can be hardy.

One thing to note when caring for aratilis is that it’s a popular fruit with birds. You might want to look into some form of a deterrent if you’re growing the tree and want to keep the fruit for yourself, such as holographic tape that can confuse birds and keep them away. Over time they will get used to it, so only use it when the tree produces fruit.

Propagation of Aratilis

It’s possible to propagate the aratilis tree from seeds, seedlings, and cuttings. However, the seeds of the fruit are tiny, so it might be easiest to squeeze the fruit – pulp, seeds, and all – onto some soil to start growing it.

Washing the seeds is thought to be beneficial, as it can prevent mold growth, which can cause the plant to die once it has germinated. However, it would help if you were careful as the seeds are tiny that they are challenging to wash.

It’s also worth growing seedlings in a protected environment under warm light rather than outdoors, as garden pests can quickly demolish young aratilis plants.

Taste of Aratilis

The fruit of the aratilis is lovely and juicy, with a flavor and scent reminiscent of cotton candy – absolutely delicious! It’s no wonder it’s so popular with children. The fruit has an interesting texture, though, due to the many fine seeds that add a crunch not too dissimilar to a light cereal.

FAQs

Is Aratilis a Fruit?

Aratilis is a fruit – it’s small and round, similar in size and shape to a blueberry. However, the color of the fruit is more orange/red when ripe, and it contains hundreds of tiny yellow seeds. The taste of the fruit is similar to cotton candy.

What Is an Aratilis Tree?

The Aratilis tree is a fast-growing tree best suited to warm climates. It bears the aratilis fruit, a small berry that tastes like cotton candy. The tree originated in tropical Central America and South America but became extremely popular in the Philippines. It is now grown worldwide wherever winters are mild enough for the tree to survive.

Is Aratilis a Berry?

A berry is a small round fruit that does not contain a stone, so aratilis fruit is considered a berry. The fruit has several colloquial names around the world that incorporate the word berry, including cotton candy berry, Panama berry, and festival berry. In addition, it is sometimes referred to as an ornamental cherry, Jamaican cherry, Singapore cherry, or West Indian cherry.

How Do You Plant Aratilis?

The aratilis fruit contains hundreds of tiny yellow seeds, so often, the fruit is squeezed directly onto the field or planting area as the easiest way of planting the tree. However, it is better to clean and dry the seeds first, if possible, as this can prevent mold growth which can kill the seedling early in its life.

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Regina

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

I am sorry, but "Mansanitas" and "Aratilis" are TOTALLY 2 DIFFERENT FRUITS! The "mansanitas" is the one that looks like a small version of apples, but it looks more like the cherries here in the USA. However, the Aratilis is the one with tons of tiny seeds inside. Loved both of these fruits while growing up in the Philippines and I am very familiar with both fruits. I think you are confused. Sorry.

Patrick Saint Pierre

Monday 8th of June 2015

the Little Aple taste good even better !

Christina

Saturday 21st of March 2015

i love eating the aratilis, its been 32 years now I'm away from Philippines" being here in the U.S. America.. i miss all the Tropical fruits pilipino fruits.. :-)