By JUDY CARIÑO
If you have a taste for ampalaya salad, try another delicious bitter vegetable. The masaplora tops may prove better (or bitterer).
These tops come from the native variety of the passion fruit, which produces egg-sized fruits, which turn purple when ripe. In my childhood, masaplora vines used to thrive around our home, and we collected the tart and deeply-flavored fruit for a delicious snack and to make juice with, for bringing to school.
During those days, this variety was the more common one. When we came across the American masap with fruits that turn golden when ripe, and have a sweeter but less intense taste, we used to fight over these treasures. Now, with the wisdom of my years, I come to appreciate the purple masaplora over its golden counterpart.
Unfortunately, this variety is now difficult to get hold of. The rare times I see them for sale, I buy a few and savor a flavor of my childhood. During the Adivay Festival, I was able to buy a bunch.
Being a city-bred girl, I did not know that the shoot of this vine is edible. Only later, meeting the likes of Santong, did I come to appreciate this foodstuff. The leaves are a healthy, glowing and growing shade of green, and can reinforce one’s healthy resolutions. They are best prepared simply stir-fried with some garlic allowing the leaves to cook in several teaspoons of water. Season with salt, and the dish is ready to be served with rice. A bite of this dish is nutrition-packed, and brings to mind simple lifestyles and less hectic times.
I know some people who swear their favorite food is lightly sauteed masaplora shoots. A first taste may shock the uninitiated, but as you continue chewing, the tongue gets accustomed to the unique flavor, which drives some people to regularly search for this vegetable.
The tops are available in one of the bus stops along Mountain Trail from Bontoc to Baguio. I have also found them sold outside the Hangar market. Twenty pesos gives you a good bunch enough to serve three or four people as a side dish. #