Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea), also known as the Spanish Plum, is an exotic antioxidant fruit native from Latin America brought to and grown in the Philippines in the 1800s. Today, Sineguelas can be found in several provinces across the Philippines. The Filipino people call it the “food of the gods.”
You may also encounter this fruit under other names, such as Jocote, Jamaica Plum, Purple Plum, Brazilian Plum, Red Mombin, Chile Plum, Ciruela, Hog Plum, Ovo, Purple Jobo, Purple Mombin, Scarlet Plum, Spanish Plum, and Wild Plum. Jocote is the most common of the names used for this fruit. The etymology comes from the Nahuatl word xocotl, indicating any sour or acidic fruit. However, if you wait long enough for this fruit to ripen, it will become pretty sweet.
The Sineguelas tree has been naturalized in parts of Sri Lanka, India, Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other Caribbean islands. However, you’ll mostly find this fruit cultivated in some areas of the Brazilian Northeast side. This is precisely why you can find the Spanish plum in the homes of so many Brazilians, especially in the Southeast and South regions.
There are two varieties of Ciruela, the yellow and the red variety – both of these types of Spanish plums have a large seed at their core. The seed is inedible, fibrous, and bitter, so it’s best if you don’t attempt to eat it.
The fruit starts forming on the branches starting in May, and by June, Spanish plums are ripe and ready to eat. The plant itself is found in open forests, pastures, and thickets. However, the plant is quite versatile, as it can thrive in various soil types: gravel, sand, calcareous soils, and loams. The tree is semi-evergreen and can reach up to 25 m in height.
The Spanish plum is oblong and measures around 3-5 cm at its maximum width and length. It has a smooth and glossy peel, making this fruit quite easily recognizable. Spanish plums are also called golden apples sometimes due to their close resemblance to apples and, ultimately, to plums at first glance.
The fruit is green and turns yellow, red, or maroon when ripe. It is small in size, approximately 1.5 inches. The taste is sweet and juicy when eaten ripe. Other people prefer eating them unripe, matching them with salt and vinegar. The Sineguelas is rich in vitamin C and ascorbic acid. It is best known for keeping your immune system healthy and robust.
What’s in a Spanish Plum?
6% Of the Drv Sodium
- This mineral is essential in the body since it maintains a healthy balance of electrolytes. On the other hand, when this electrolytes balance is not achieved, you may experience headaches, dizziness, vomiting, low energy, and muscle pains, among other uncomfortable symptoms.
1g of Protein
- Protein is crucial to the body’s well-being since it ensures whole tissue health. Skin, bones, and cartilages are also the benefactors of a sodium-rich diet.
5% Of the DRV Vitamin C
- Eating considerable quantities of Spanish plums will help your body prevent iron deficiency and lower the risk of heart disease. Apart from this, vitamin C may also reduce the risk of chronic disease, help better manage high blood pressure, and boost your immunity.
3% Of the DRV Iron
- This mineral is essential in the body since it ensures hemoglobin’s proper functioning. This protein carries oxygen through the bloodstream and guarantees that your entire body is supplied with oxygen. Iron is usually inconspicuous in the body, and you can understand its importance once it’s lacking. This will manifest as anemia, a condition showing symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and leg cramps.
As you can see, this small plum-resembling fruit holds a crucial nutritional value that can boost your immune system and prevent specific ailments or diseases. But, of course, extensive studies are still needed to shed light on what this excellent antioxidant fruit may offer in terms of health benefits.
The Sineguelas also contains antioxidants that keep your skin looking healthy and glowing. In addition, because of its significant amount of vitamin C, it can protect you from common sicknesses you may catch from others, such as cough, colds, and fever. Unfortunately, the Sineguelas fruit is not commonly sold in supermarkets. But if you visit local stores in the Philippines, you might want to check them out and have a taste of these so-called foods of the gods.
Traditionally, ciruelas or Spanish plums have been used as traditional medicine in treating diarrhea, relieving swollen glands, healing sores, and reducing sore throats and headaches.
How To Pick the Best Spanish Plums
These are delicious little fruits that closely resemble plums and can become sweet and enjoyable once they pass their green, raw stage. This is why it’s essential to know when and how to pick them so you only get the best of what these fruits offer.
Whether you’re picking them off the branch or from the local farmer’s market, you need to look out for the color these fruits have. If they’re green with reddish-brown areas, it means they’re not ripe yet, but they’re in the process of becoming ripe. On the other hand, if they’ve already turned a beautiful reddish color, they’re well and ready to be taken home. One additional test you can perform is to press the sineguelas with your fingers.
If they’re ripe, their flesh will yield to the pressure. You will feel the texture of the fruit as being slightly soft yet maintaining its firmness underneath it all. If the fruit feels too soft to the touch and holds no resistance, it’s too ripe, and you may want to pass on it.
Storing Your Spanish Plums
Similar to regular plums, Spanish plums are also pretty perishable, so you must get acquainted with the storing techniques before it’s too late and they become inedible. So if you bought them and they’re still a bit green, you can leave them on the counter for a couple of more days so that they can continue the ripening process.
However, you must check them regularly since they can quickly go bad. If you want to speed up the process, you can place them in paper bags and leave them on the counter – this will save you precious time.
If you want to have them for a longer time, you can put them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator drawer – this should add at least three more days to their lifespan. Of course, storing Spanish plums requires attention, but the effort will pay off.
How to Use Spanish Plums
Considering Spanish plums are pretty perishable, making the best of them as soon as you get them from the market or picking them off the tree is recommended.
You can eat them raw, as most people do, or consider turning them into something else. Think about:
- That’s right, you can easily bake Spanish plums and add them to whatever your heart desires. They will get that unique aroma that retains the fruit’s flavor while resembling a dessert.
Including Them in Your Morning Muesli
- Add a bit of granola to your small Spanish plums chunks and a bit of honey, and you’ll have a delicious and energy-packed start to your day.
Including Them in a Smoothie
- There’s always a time to try new things, and Spanish plum smoothies have been relatively unheard of just now. Mix them with Greek yogurt, a banana, and whatever other fruit suits your taste. Add in any other ingredients to balance the taste to your liking, and you’ll have a drink that’s both refreshing and healthy.
Turning Your Sineguelas Into Jams
- The sineguelas jam recipe requires you to be creative. Still, you can handle everything, especially if you’ve made jams.
Making Them Into Desserts
- Sineguelas ice cream is another popular dessert option for those looking to turn their Spanish plums into something savory.
Sineguelas blend well with many other fruits and ingredients, so you’ll have many options to consider when thinking about how to consume them.
If you ever travel to the Philippines, you’ll get to sample myriad Spanish plum recipes as the locals lovingly prepare them. In no other place are Spanish plums so well-known and beloved as in the Philippines. So make sure you jot down any recipe you stumble upon over there, so you can recreate it at home later on.
One recipe there, for example, includes Spanish plums in a sour sineguelas soup and cooked meats. Kinilaw is another popular dish in the Philippines, and it’s a blend between seafood, juices, and vegetables.
Ultimately, it’s easy to see why Spanish plums are such a favorite among the Philippino locals – they’re small, easy to consume, zesty, and delicious. Apart from this, they can treat ailments, are rich in health benefits, and quickly become essential parts of great recipes. In addition, the antioxidant content gives them an important position among the impressive list of antioxidant fruits you can find worldwide. All you need to do is to be careful of how you store them and enjoy becoming creative with finding new ways to make them a part of your healthy lifestyle.