The Sungkit or Fruit-Picker

"Retired No Way" Sungkit Fruit-Picker

The business end of the Sungkit or Fruit-Picker

The Sungkit (or Fruit-Picker)

Many valuable fruits have to be harvested from treetops. Mangoes are a good example.

I used a sungkit <sung-KEET> for the first time in my life. I picked up all six meters of it. The sungkit is a bamboo pole with a ruggedly-constructed webbed basket.

The way you operate it is by snaking the pole through the branches until the head is bumping the fruit. Then you manipulate the head to sever the stem of the fruit. I first trapped the mango stem between the two U-shapes in the basket. Then I gave it a strong yank to snap the stem.

Sungkit refers to the pole but it’s also a Tagalog verb infinitive. It forms the root for two other words–verbs:

  • sungkitin – pick it using this pole or a similar concept
  • sinungkit – picked it using this pole or a similar concept (past tense)
Sungkit Fruit-Picker "Retired No Way" "Quick Note"

You can see it sway from the weight of three Indian Mangoes.

The compound I live in is full of fruit trees and I used the sungkit to harvest Indian Mangoes. This mango is smaller than the Carabao Mango.

From a Philippine government website, I learned that there are three varieties:

  • Carabao Mango — originated from India, Burma and Malaya. Best served as fresh fruit. It has a perfect blend of sweetness and sourness, succulent, and has a pleasant aroma. Fleshy and yellow when ripe, very tender, melting in the mouth and less fibrous.
  • Pico — originated from India, Burma and Malaya. Smaller than the carabao variety. Kidney shaped with round apex and base, which is more, flattened. Light yellow orange when ripe, thick and tough. Has fibrous orange to yellow orange flesh. Sweeter than the carabao variety but not melting.
  • Katchamita  — originated from India. Commonly known as India Mango. Skin is green and flesh is yellowish

I was harvesting katchamita then.

Sungkit Fruit-Picker "Retired No Way" "Quick Note"

The sungkit in action.

A world-class Mango

I remember my kids agree that mango is their favorite fruit. This photo of a carabao mango appeared in an earlier post:

"Decline in Visits" "Retired No Way" Papaya Mango "Fruit Picker" Sungkit

That's a small papaya and a very large mango.

Above mango is for local consumption. If it were exported, the skin would be free of blemishes. The mango costs about 20 pesos (less than 50 U.S. cents).

Mangoes start out as flowers.

"Retired No Way" Flowers "Mango Tree" Sungkit Fruit-Picker

Flowers of a Mango Tree

The term “world-class” is bandied about in Filipino media. World-class this and world-class that, they say.

So far as I can tell, only certain things from the Philippines can realistically be considered “world-class.” Some of these are:

  • Philippine beaches
  • Philippine islands
  • Manny Pacquiao


  • Carabao Mango.

Philippine mango (the national fruit) is known worldwide as the best tasting variety of Carabao mangoes in the world. Philippine mangoes have a distinct rich taste, no turpentine taste, not fibrous and high nutritional value compared to other cultivars. Philippine Carabao mangoes are available year-round but the best tasting fruits are those picked during the summer months.

Filipinos who grew up in the Philippines and migrated to the U.S., miss the delicious Philippine Carabao mangoes when faced with bland tasting mangos imported from Mexico. “Philippine mangoes” sold in the U.S. are from Mexico while “real” produce from the Philippines are marketed as “Manila Super Mangoes.”

[ That’s news to me. I’ll weigh in with my opinion: Mexican mangoes are puny compared to Philippine mangoes. Mexican mangoes are excessively fibrous when eaten as fresh fruit. Mexican mangoes are also smaller than Carabao mangoes; they’re about the size of Indian mangoes. ]

Mexico is the world’s top exporter of fresh mangoes cornering approximately 40% share of mango exports while India is the world’s top producer of mangoes producing more than half of the world’s mango output. The United States is the world’s biggest importer of fresh mangoes.

Philippine Herbal Medicine

Being world-class means being able to take on all comers. Like the Alphonso.

The Alphonso

NPR, or National Public Radio, is a respectable independent radio station in the U.S. popular as a Main Street alternative to the regular networks of ABS, CBS, NBC, Fox. From an NPR story:

There are said to be some 1,500 varieties of mangoes in India. Only a couple have been cleared for export to the U.S. One, the Alphonso, is known as the King of Mangoes in India.

For a more unbiased opinion, I took my shrink-wrapped Alphonso to Elizabeth Falkner, chef and author of Demolition Desserts. We stood in the bustling kitchen of Orson, her restaurant in San Francisco.

First she tried the little yellow Mexican mango. She liked it; it’s pretty much what she’s used to in a mango.

Then she tried the big red and green Guatemalan one.

“There’s a stringiness to them. And that’s something I’m not really crazy about. They taste more like vegetable than fruit.”

And the Alphonso.

“Oh my god. That is really good. Mmmm. They have a really different flavor than most mangoes I’ve had. It’s a deep sort of sweetness, almost like a caramelized sweetness. Wow, can you tell me where I can buy these now?”

The Alphonso is still king, even when it’s eaten in a kitchen in San Francisco. But I still crave that first mango of summer in Calcutta, the juice dripping down my chin, the cool orange flesh the only thing that made the muggy days bearable.

I wonder how our Carabao Mango stacks up to the Alphonso! Maybe they’re one and the same.


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