A caveat: There’s not a lot of literature written about sampinit. What I’m posting here is purely from personal experience, what I know, what I’ve seen and what I’ve tasted. Nothing extracted from a “tropical fruit” journal. Wikipedia did not help this time as well. This is all me, purely my thoughts.
When I first posted photos of sampinit on my Facebook page (yes, I have one) a lot of my Filipino friends were pleasantly surprised to know that such a fruit can be found in our native land. I was familiar with it but by no means was it common. It was and remains a rare summer treat. Not widely available and only for a short period of time. That partly explains it being on the pricey side. I used to pick them myself as I could not afford the going “market rate” back in the ‘80s.
It might be expensive compared to other tropical fruits but once you understand what it takes before they appear in some ale’s banana leaf lined bilao you’ll accept the price as fair if not cheap. I am not aware if attempts have been made to cultivate this precious jewel of the forest. From what I know nothing has changed in how sampinit is harvested. They are sporadically found in Laguna’s rainforest. Some brave souls needed to endure the sweltering summer heat to come up with a kilo of this much loved wild berries. The berry bush, by the way, is surrounded by sharp thorns adding to the tricky nature of collecting them.
Compared to the commercially available raspberries sampinit are a bit smaller and thereby more delicate. The flavour is very similar to the regular raspberry but it is more robustly astringent and tart. They are not genetically modified to become sweeter and plumper to suit the consumer. They have been left as nature intended. I think sampinit would be great in compotes, sauces, pastries and even cakes if you can get a hold of enough of them.
You can devour sampinit straight from the bush but some people prefer to add a bit of salt (yes, you read right, salt!) to bring out more of that berry goodness. They let it stand in the salt for a few minutes which then slowly releases the berry juices. It is a known way of eating sampinit in Laguna. You’ll notice a small jar of salt on the bilao in one of my photos.
They’re about P10 for a shot size glass filled to the brim. I think that amounts to barely 100g of the stuff. I’m kicking myself now for not buying more and made something out of them. On the next trip back home I promise myself not to miss the opportunity…whenever that may be.