Binucao: The underutilized souring agent

By Rita T. dela Cruz
PLANTS of Garcinia binucao

Often when one mentions of “sinigang”—a favorite Filipino dish, the usual souring agent used is sampalok (Tamarindus indicus). If tamarind is not available, the next best alternatives that come to mind are calamansi/kalamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpa), guava (Psidium guajava), or kamias (Averhhoa balimbi).

But rarely does the “binucao” come to mind. In fact, the name will not even ring a bell as most of us have not heard of it.

FRUITS of Garcinia binucao

Binucao or binukaw (Garcinia binucao) among the Tagalogs or balakut to the Ilocanos is a fruit that is indigenous to the Philippines and is well-craved for in the Visayan regions as the “best souring agent” for their sinigang. In fact, they claim that the fruit of binucao or batuan or batuwan, as referred to by the Visayans, is even better than the good ol’ sampalok that most of us have been traditionally using to sour our sinigang.

Binucao is one of the 300 species of fruits with economic importance or potentials that was identified and included in the book, Imported and Underutilized Edible Fruits of the Philippines” authored by Dr. Roberto E. Coronel, a noted Filipino agricultural scientist and a professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). The publication was funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the UPLB Foundation Inc.

Binucao is mentioned to have originated in the Philippines and Indonesia. In the Philippines, it is commonly found from Luzon to Mindanao but mostly in Panay and Negros.The tree thrives well in primary forests at low and medium altitudes.

BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar and staff tasting the “Binucao” fruit at the DA-RFU 6 booth during the 8th Agriculture & Fisheries Technology Forum & Product Exhibition.

This wonder souring agent is a close relative of mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), both are sub-globose fruits and each has a multi-sectioned pod of sour seeds.

As described, the tree of binucao is medium-sized with ovate oblong leaves that are about 15 cm long and rounded at both ends. The tree flowers in clusters in greenish white. The fruit are subglobuse and grows up tp 3 cm long and yellowish in color. The fruit is juicy and five-seeded.

According to the book of Dr. Coronel, this unutulized species is useful as a home garden fruit tree and its fruits may be eaten raw.

In the article, “Garcinia binucao”, Visayan Daily Star columnist, Eli F.J. Tajanlangit mentioned that “Batuan is the secret agent in the Negrense cook’s souring arsenal that makes his kansi or sinigang so fruity sour, it never fails to impress visitors.” He described its sourness as something that is “difficult to pin down, which makes it stand out even just on the national dining table simply because batuan is not used in most parts of the country.” He even claimed that, “if properly promoted, Batuan may well be one of our tickets to international gastronomical fame.”

He reported in his column that currently, there are already avaliable technologies that enable consumers to enjoy this sour fruit even if it’s not in season. The bottled Batuan puree and candied Batuan in sugar syrup are being sold commercially in Negros Occidental where according to hime, “there is a robust eating tradition for this fruit that is difficult to propagate.”

In the recently concluded 8th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition organized by BAR held at the SM Megatrade Halls 1&2, the binucao plants and fruits were exhibited at the booth of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit VI (DA-RFU 6). BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar and other staff were able to have a taste of the sour fruit.

1. Coronel, R.E. 2011. Important and Underutilized Edible Fruits of the Philippines. DA-BAR and UPLBFI. Manila, Philippines.
2. “The Souring Agents of Sinigang”. Retrieved from:
3. “Garcinia binucao” In: The Good Life with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit. Retrieved form:
4. ‘Sutukil’ order in Negros for alimentary – not military – purposes. The Manila Times.Net. 10 June 2011. Retrieved from: