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Santol fruits are round to ovate, averaging 4 to 7 centimeters in diameter, and have a slightly flattened shape. The skin is leathery, somewhat fuzzy, and wrinkled, ripening from green to golden yellow, and is sometimes covered in a red blush. Underneath the surface, the thickness of the peel will vary, depending on the variety, and can be thin and fibrous to thick and spongy. Santol fruits also have a translucent to white pulp that encases 3 to 5 inedible seeds. The pulp has a cotton-like consistency and is juicy, slippery, and soft. Santol fruits range in flavor from sour to very sweet, depending on maturity and variety. The sweetest Santol fruits have a candy-like taste with mild peach and apple notes, while in the sour varieties, a strong umami aftertaste may linger on the palate.
Santol fruit is available in the late spring through fall.
Santol fruit, botanically classified as Sandoricum koetjape, is one of two edible fruits found in the Meliaceae, or Mahogany family. The fleshy fruits are known for their sweet and sour flavor and are widely cultivated throughout tropical lowlands in Southeast Asia, sold in fresh markets as a raw snack. One Santol tree can produce over 20,000 fruits in one year, and there are two main types of Santol fruits generally labeled as yellow or red varieties. Red Santol fruit cultivars are regarded as the more prevalent of the two groups found in local markets, and in addition to the fruits, the trees are valued for their ornamental, industrial, and medicinal uses.
Santol fruits are a good source of iron, which is a mineral that can help move oxygen in the blood and fiber, which can help regulate digestion. The fruits also contain calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.
Santol fruits are best suited for raw applications as their sweet and sour flavor is showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. To eat raw, the flesh can be sucked from the seeds, but caution should be taken not to swallow the seeds as they are inedible. The flesh can also be sprinkled with salt and spices, consumed as a snack, or it can be soaked in fruit juices and blended into a beverage. In addition to raw applications, Santol fruits can be cooked into jellies, jams, and syrups, canned for extended use, cooked into chutney, or candied as a sweet treat. The rind and flesh are also used in cooking to add a slightly bitter flavor in curries, sauces, and soups. In Filipino cuisine, Santol is grated and cooked in coconut milk in a dish known as Sinantolan. Santol fruits pair well with flavors like coconut, citrus, lemon, lime, ginger, sugar, and tamarind. The fruits will keep up to three weeks when stored whole at room temperature.
In the Philippines, Santol trees are a favored ornamental home garden variety and are used in larger cities for their widespread limbs, providing shade along roadways. The wood of the tree is also commonly used in the construction of furniture, boats, and even slingshots for kids. Beyond building materials, various parts of the Santol tree are used in Filipino folk medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. The pulp is preserved and used as an astringent, the leaves are used to help reduce fevers, and the roots are used to help reduce symptoms associated with digestive issues.
Santol fruits are native to tropical regions of Malaysia, Cambodia, and southern Laos and have been cultivated since ancient times. Today the fruits have become naturalized in many parts of Southeast Asia and are widely found in local markets when in season. Santol fruits can also be found in select regions of Costa Rica, Honduras, Puerto Rico, and in Florida and Hawaii of the United States.