BASCO, BATANES–The Batanes Pine may have been the Ivatans’ native Christmas tree for hundreds of Decembers, but they may now call  it a fortune tree, too, thanks to its purple berries.

Also known as Arius (Podocarpus costalis), the Batanes Pine is a fruit-bearing tree growing by the thousands all over the island group, lining walkways and dotting untended land–with the edible berries in the past left to drop to the ground.

However, in 2010, a team from Batanes State College (BSC) unveiled a Cinderella story with a product line of jelly, jam, pastillas, tart, tea and wine based on the Arius berry.

Focus has then shifted from the 1 to 5 meter tree used as hardwood, fashioned as a garden plant, or festooned with decor for Christmas, to the berries, which grow only in Batanes even as the tree is cultured elsewhere in Luzon.

The trees bear fruit in the summer, between April and May, and the berries ripen to red or purple between July and October. The project aimed to make the sweet and sultry flavor available year-round–and for a price, augmenting locals’ finances.

The mature berry is believed to contain antioxidants. Moreover, the wine has been touted for the taste approximating California wine.

The beverage recently brought honor to BSC after capturing the “Best Newly Packaged Product” feat, besting other products sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Regional Office No. 02.

BSC received the honnorific plaque and cash prize during the last day of DOST’s North Luzon Cluster Fair, held last Sept. 2-4 at Red Eagle Gymnasium, Cagayan State University-Carig, and attended by Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and the Cordilleras.

Far from content with the product line, however, instructors and staff of the state college underwent a product development seminar on Oct. 27 at the Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) in Batanes. They yielded new products like the dried arius berry, berry concentrate and juice, leather and pickles.

With PSTC Batanes and Provincial Director Nora T. Garcia eyeing more products, the berry’s Cinderella story is yet unfolding.

 

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