Photo by John Moss / Wikimedia Commons

Bite-sized, simultaneously sweet and sour wild Philippine raspberries. Scientific name: Rubus rosifolius Linn.

According to the Philippine Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), sapinit grow on spiny, branchy shrubs that grow to over 4 feet in height, with feather-like leaves broken into 3 to 7 leaflets.

Sapinit shrubs bloom with tiny white flowers (reminiscent of sampaguita) at the same time they bear fruit.

Grow widely in open secondary forests across the Philippines, at low to medium altitudes, and particularly thrive in the fertile, moist soils of Quezon province in Luzon.

Prior to coming across this video from an agricultural TV series filmed in Tagalog, I had no inkling of the existence of sapinit fruit. I was familiar with raspberries, sure, but as a middle-class kid who grew up in Manila my knowledge of raspberries was mostly defined by their abundance in Sookie’s cakes on the Gilmore Girls, or longing for one or two glacéed pieces atop expensive slices of cheesecake.

For those so inclined, I recommend a quick read of an informative piece called “What’s In It for Sapinit?” (don’t you just love clever lines?) by Anne Camille B. Brion. I learned that sapinit grow like wildfire near Mount Banahaw. I would love to visit and see those crops for myself.

Sapinit berries can be processed into jam, juice and wine. In the town of Tiaong, Quezon province, up to 220 lbs of berries are processed daily, with a relatively high profit margin for small-scale producers in the area, often women with a part-time negosyo (business venture) that adds to the family’s income.

“We should encourage and lead by example, and urge our young people to love Pinoy fruits,” said Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala in a 2012 interview. How far along are these berries, I wonder, from being a mainstream product given a full showcase in local Philippine grocery stores, the way seasonal produce sits in brightly coloured shelves in the supermarkets of North America?

Further reading:

• “TechCom project to conserve Philippine wild raspberry in progress” and as mentioned above, “What’s in it for Sapinit?” from the monthly BAR Chronicle

• More information on sapinit’s high composition of anti-cancer phytochemicals, according to a study conducted with the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Biotech program

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