DO you still remember the two catmon seedlings we outplanted that too soon died almost instantaneously? Poor seedlings, but that made me so sad because catmon was among my favorites when we were starting to propagate and plant native trees.
I did not know anything about catmon before I saw these seedlings with serrated shiny evergreen leaves. It further fascinated me when I saw a large tree with delicate white flowers at Daang Kalikasan in June 2020. My colleagues were picking fallen fruits under that tree but I did not dare join because to get there we had to jump into a deep canal by the roadside and struggle to navigate a not so clean no-path mushy dirt. I really would not risk my aging limbs just to get a catmon.
Looking closer, the white flower was as big as my palm. It had a bright red stamina that resembled a gumamela flower. I do not remember its smell because it had just been washed by a heavy downpour, it might have lost its fragrance.
By the way, during a visit to a privately owned arboretum of native trees in Umingan, spouses Nelio and Emma Gusto gifted me with Katmon-kalabaw with leaves almost the same as my first catmon seedlings, but larger and darker. It has been almost a year in our mini-nursery so we outplanted it during the last rainy season. It is doing well, having bigger new leaves each time.
One lazy afternoon, we walked through Boracay wetlands park in Malay, Aklan and I got so excited when I saw a row of fruiting catmon trees. The trees were not yet as large as that one I saw in Daang Kalikasan in Mangatarem, Pangasinan. I suspect these were planted some six to eight years ago because these were in a neat row near a natural lake.
People seemed not to be minding the trees, with fallen fruits just swept aside among the leaves and rubbish. The trees appeared well taken care of, twigs and branches clipped to look like a mushroom on a clean trunk. Poor thing, again, but happy me that time, to see how park authorities in Boracay considered catmon as a park tree.
There are other places in the metropolis that also have catmon in parks. I saw a lot at the technohub in Quezon City and also at the UP Diliman Campus. The Philippine Wildlife Park also has catmon trees. All the trees are not yet very large, but all were fruiting when I saw them.
By the way, some of the flowers I saw were yellow, not white.
My daughters do not like to see me picking catmon fruits. The duo might be embarrassed that their mom appears hungry for sour fruits. I do not mind picking because all I want is to collect the seeds to sow eventually. The fruits end up in the biodegradable bin.
No new catmon seedlings have ever germinated from the rotten fruits.
This time I made sure that I collected the seeds from the fruits before they rotted. I wrapped the seeds with a table napkin and kept it tightly secured among my laundry. Tired and lazy upon arriving, I dozed off. The next day, I was like a child looking for a lost toy among the used table napkins that the man of the house had tossed into the biodegradable bin. Again. I said I could not lose my catmon seeds. I found them still securely wrapped in my pocket.
I tried sowing the seeds and I am willing to wait until one germinates.
I love the taste of catmon. I tried eating it raw. People keep saying, no it is a souring agent for dishes like sinigang. I like it raw, without salt. I find it pleasantly sour and juicy.
Because of its flowers, it also attracts pollinators for other garden crops. Its leaves may be used as mulch for other crops.
I am optimistic it can withstand the heat of summer with a lot of effort to water it more often.
It is going to be a dry hot summer again and we’re crossing our fingers our lone catmon will make it!