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The Tropical Fruit Mabolo: Nutrition, Culinary Uses and Kamagong Hardwood

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The tropical fruit mabolo is little known outside of its native Philippines. Mabolo, also known as butterfruit, is sweet tasting and very nutritious, being a good source of antioxidants. The mabolo tree is better known outside of Southeast Asia for its hi

Travelers to the Philippines often come across and get to sample some colorful and unusual exotic fruits rarely seen in other parts of the world. One of these fruits is the mabolo fruit, botanical name Diospyros blancoi. This fruit from the Ebenaceae botanical family is about the size of an apple and grows on a tall attractive evergreen tree that has tiny flowers. The tree can be found in the tropical lowlands of the Philippines and is also cultivated. It is often seen along highways, parks and ocean sides, where it provides good shade. Mabolo fruit has dark reddish, purple or maroon colored skin when ripe. The thin skin is covered by tiny hairs, that make the skin inedible. It also has a repugnant cheesy odor which is removed by peeling the skin. This fruit usually has 4-5 five seeds to its core, although some varieties are seedless. 

Although the mabolo is native to the Philippines, unsuccessful attempts were made in the 19th century to naturalize the fruit tree in Florida and the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London. However, mabolo fruit trees were successfully propagated in the Malay Peninsula, Hawaii and Cuba. Mabolo is known by several other names including butterfruit, velvet apple ( India), sagalet, buah or mentega ( Malaysia). Mabolo is also known as mabolo persimmon because it is closely related to persimmon ( Diospyros kaki). The name kamagong, sometimes called camogan ebony, refers to the hardwood of the mabolo tree.

Culinary Uses: Mabolo fruit has a sweet flavor and a grainy texture, similar to a pear. This fruit is mostly eaten fresh with a dash of lime or made into juice. It is also sliced into juliennes and sautéed in butter as a vegetable. Mabolo pairs well with cured meats and spices. It can also be used for fruit salads.

Nutrition: Mabolo fruit provides B complex vitamins, as well as vitamin's C and A. Research has demonstrated that mabolo fruit contains numerous phenolic compounds that provide powerful antioxidant activity. Mabolo is also a source of calcium, iron and potassium.

Kamagong Hardwood: The heartwood of the mabolo tree is extremely strong and considered almost indestructible. Originally it was used in the Philippines by tribal people to make weapons for hunting, such as spears and knife handles. These days the exotic hardwood is carved to fashion necklaces, hair combs, utensils and to make furniture for export. The color of kamagong wood is often dark grey, brown or black and is attractively streaked and mottled. Black is the rarest and most desirable color. Generally speaking the older the tree, the darker the wood and the higher the price of its timber. Some people even stain the wood black to increase its value or substitute less valuable wood, such as tamarind wood that has been dyed black. Due to illegal logging in resent years, kamagong wood is now protected by Philippine law. 

Mabolo (Diospyros blancoi): Image credit. Primary image credit.

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Peter Bilton

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