(For my last post in this series about my mother’s garden, which is my way of honoring her this Mothers’ Month of May, I am featuring a most unusual fruit — something that, come to think of it, is like our mothers who help make even the worst of times just a little better. )
Of all the produce in my Ma’s garden, this is probably the most unusual — synsepalum dulcificum, better known as miracle fruit or magic berry. It is so called because of the amazing effect it has on one’s taste buds. Simply put, it makes everything, and I mean everything, taste really sweet.
My memories of childhood summers always include the tambis. One of the bigger trees in our garden, the tambis or macopa (water/rose apple) was also the only one in our street and bore so much fruit that it gave us our version of a lemonade stand. Every summer afternoon, my sisters and I would set up a small table in front of our gate, arrange the tambis in pyramids and sell them to neighborhood kids for about ten centavos per three pieces.
We also had aratiles and guava trees and our playmates were free to pick a few from those. (I remember that guava tree. I kept peeling off the top layer of its trunk because it was always smoother underneath — a victim of my misdirected quest for neatness even in nature.)
The fruit trees in my mother’s garden are especially prolific now that it’s summer. Around this time, neighborhood kids regularly come around and ask if they can pick aratiles or hagis or tambis. Ma always says yes but also always with a warning for them to leave some on the trees or else, heh. Some things never change.
(Because May is the month of mothers, all four of this month’s Sunday/Monday posts will feature my Ma’s garden and all the pretty, lovely, beautiful, delicious things that grow there. Today, some flowering plants take center stage.)
I cannot remember a time when my Ma did not keep a garden. Wherever we lived, from the large house and lot that I grew up in to the tiny structure with the nipa thatched-roof that we had to build on borrowed land after we lost almost everything, Ma always managed to cultivate a garden.
As soon as she and Dad acquired the land where they now live, she started planting all sorts of fruit trees and flowering plants on it (even before they made plans to build the house). All that sowing has been paying off in large measures of gorgeousness. Ma chose tropical plant varieties that grow all year round but especially thrive during summer. So from March to June, which is summer in the Philippines, everything in the garden is either abloom or bursting with fruit or both.
Because it is now officially Spring where most of you are but officially Summer where I am and officially Fall somewhere else (March is weird!), there seems to be a lot of busy-ness around. I recently found this excerpt from a collection of essays about gardening. For those of us who are busy preparing for the weeks ahead — spring cleaning! taxes! graduations! the obligatory ‘vacation’ with the entire (extended) family at an out-of-town beach! (whew!) — it’s a gentle reminder to take a breather.