Its Sunday, my market day! We woke up early at 6:00am and intentionally left Levi at home since we don’t know how to navigate the city traffic at downtown Cebu. We hate one-way traffic and complex intersections in Colon, so we rode a jeepney instead and brought our reusable shopping bags (yes, I am personally beginning to adopt and ban the excessive use of plastic bags in shopping).
Again, I love random things. This morning, I don’t have anything in mind to buy or to cook at home. I just let my senses dictate what will gonna be put on my reusable bag. I just enjoyed the morning rush In carbon Public Market: the road heavily traffic worsen by vendors displaying their merchandise that almost encroached on the road (I couldn't blame our farmers and vendors for this is the only day of the week they are free to sell whatever they produced upland). Besides, this is the spirit of public market I am expecting every week: busy streets, pushcarts competing with jeepneys, fresh produces of different shapes and sizes almost shouting in their vibrant colors, vendors greet you with their morning smile enough to invite you to try and buy their merchandise, some chef-on-the-street preparing breakfast fares the smoke and smell of what’s cooking wafting in the air. Carbon Public Market never fails to overwhelm me every time I visit her.
I have seen only one vendor selling at her two display baskets this “unusual” berry-like produce. “Unusual” in my own sense because it was my first time to see, touch and taste those fruit berries. My curiosity had me asking the vendor what is she selling and how to eat it. She said it is BUGNAY and school children love to dip it in rock salt and eat it raw. I tried one berry and it is enough to made me shiver with its acidic tartness. I told myself maybe a jam or marmalade be made out of it. What interests me more was the color when I pinched it, a deep, reddish to purplish fuchsia color bursted on my fingertips. I bought half kilo of it and it was already a bagful.
I was surprised Google gave me a lot of relevant and related topics when I searched it the moment we arrived home.
Bugnay (Antidesma bunius, or bignay/bignai in Tagalog and bugnay in Ilokos, or currant tree) is a shady tree of Euphorbiaceae family. This is commonly found in Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of Asia to northern Australia. The tree grows 4-10 meters high. Fruit is fleshy, red, acid, edible, ovoid, and about 8 millimeters long, and borne in grape-like pendant clusters often paired and wrinkled when dry (www.stuartxchange.org). The berries ripe unevenly: the pale yellowish green, white, bright red and nearly black stages are present at the same time in a cluster. The skin is thin and tough but yields an abundance of bright red juice which leave a purple stain on the fabric, while the pulp is white and colorless juice. The taste is acid much like cranberries when unripe, slightly sweet and subacid when ripe. It has a straw-colored stone, flattened oval in shape and very hard (www.rigidingborlasting.mulitply.com)
These berries can be made into an excellent wine (these two blogs talked about bugnay wines: www.worldofvhincci.blogspot.com and www.bulatlat.com).
In the Philippines, it is commonly distributed in the Northern Luzon (hence the Ilokos name and Kalinga’s bugnay wine) to Mindanao, in thickets, town vicinity and occasional in forests. It has antioxidative and anti cancer properties. In culinary, the berries can be made into jams and jelly (gotcha, I’m right!), fermented into vinegar, wine and brandy. The leaves when young are edible, eaten raw in salads or stewed with rice. Leaves are used as a substitute for tomato or vinegar to flavor fish and meat stews. It has a good source of calcium and fair source of iron (stuartxchange.com).
And so I found a gem today in Carbon Public Market. I failed to ask the vendor where her berry fruits came from to ascertain where in Cebu we have these trees. I always notice these tree during my mountaineering days and it is only this time I came to know more about this tree.
I’ll try to make some jam out of it. I bought half a kilo for such a bargain at P10.00! I hope Cebuanos will be aware of the culinary uses of this tree, and make some artisan vinegars or jams out of it.
Hope you share your experiences of this acid berry! Happy September everyone! It's almost Christmas!