Lanzones, LANGSAT

What a treat to be vacationing in the Philippines during May! The markets are teeming with summer fruit, among them the lanzones.

These are available in the frozen fruits sections of select Asian stores in my neck of the woods (San Francisco Bay Area).  I have never purchased them, preferring to wait until I could savor them fresh, little ants crawling around their stems, because the fruit is oh-so-sweet.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Lanzones at a roadside stand along the road to Morong, Bataan.

Nature presents the jelly-like sections of lanzones with a wrapping that is a delicate yellow, with tinges of grayish-black, akin to the must of grapes as they ripen on the vine.

A native of Southeast Asia, it is called langsat in both Indonesia and Malaysia. I like to think that the fruit is indigenous to our islands; if not, it’s highly probable that Indonesian and Malay settlers brought it over as seeds or seedlings.

Given that, I am bewildered by our adoption of the Spanish term lanzones for a fruit that is native to this side of the world.Look, even the Thai call it langsad, the Burmese langsak, and the Bengali Indians, latka.  I wish we could start calling it langsat.

I have never known any use for the langsat other than food. Perhaps we can explore the way it was utilized in earlier times:

* as a dewormer, by pounding the seeds and mixing it with water;

* as a reliever for insect stings, by pulverizing the bark and applying it to the affected area;

* as insect repellant, by drying the skin of the fruit and burning it in a fire-proof container; the smoke would have the effect of the commercial product katol, but without the noxious fumes.

When I see Asian produce in American stores, I am envious for the Philippines. We have the same climate as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Why can’t we produce more than enough fruit so we can consume and sell part of the harvest, if not to the West, at least to our Asian neighbors with non-tropical weather, such as Japan? Some effort at planting will surely give groups of small-scale farmers reliable income for many years.


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