Rimas ice cream reaches Hong Kong; prospects deemed bright

MEAquino 2Putting a twist on the conventional flavors of ice cream, the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office 5 (DA-RFO 5), through the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC), developed rimas-flavored ice cream as part of their research and development (R&D) activities. The team proudly shared that 20 kilos of rimas ice cream have been shipped to Hong Kong for acceptability trials and that they have started to look for possible distributors. This was made possible through Global Mana, a company that focuses on food, energy, and water, and which had once sponsored a breadfruit conference in Hawaii.

Rimas ice cream was first showcased and presented to the public in the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held at SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City in 2013. Organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the annual event showcases technologies and products developed by various R&D institutions in the country. The rimas ice cream which bagged an award is one of the innovative products featured in the said event because of its novelty, uniqueness, and market potentials.

With an interest in knowing more about rimas, Mr. Joshua Niel Echague of Global Mana came across one of BAR’s articles on rimas ice cream in the internet. Mr. Echague contacted DA-BIARC and the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division which, in turn, endorsed the concern to the project team who developed the product, led by Ms. Luz Marcelino, research manager of DA-BIARC.

Growing abundantly in the Bicol region, rimas or breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 fruits per season. Recognizing its potential, BIARC embarked on a project titled, “Rimas Biodiversity Research, Conservation, and Propagation in the Bicol Region,” which was funded by BAR. Aimed at determining the biodiversity of rimas in the region, the project also intends to increase the awareness of the Bicolanos on rimas as an affordable alternative source of essential nutrients.

“It is abundant in carbohydrates and, therefore, can be a main source of energy. The fiber present in rimas is found to help the digestive system of our body, assisting in the digestion of food and helping reduce cholesterol levels,” Ms. Marcelino shared.

With abundant harvests and with the conventional notion that rimas is just for snacks, much of the crop is just left to rot. Thus, value-adding activities were developed by the team.

The Regional Food Laboratory of DA-BIARC is continuously undertaking product development given the succulent endosperm present in the fruit. To date, 15 recipes have been developed from rimas. These include pastillas, cheese cupcakes, chips, caramel, ginataan, fries, kimchi, torones de rimas, cookies, pork dumplings, rice balls, custard cake, spring roll, and muffin, aside from the rimas ice cream. The ice cream, composed of 80 percent rimas meat, now comes in three variants: rimas with sweet potato, with cheese and chocolate, and with langka. Other crops abundant in the region like siling labuyo, taro, and pili nut are also added into the mixture.

Ten kilograms of rimas fruit are needed to produce one kg of ice cream that can be sold at Php 150. “If we will just meet the present demand, we could process as much as 50 kilos of rimas thrice a week,” Ms. Marcelino said. Such an effort would be parallel to the objective of helping farmers increase their income as the raw materials are sourced from farmers in Tigaon, Camarines Sur and in Sorsogon.

Rimas ice cream has gained high acceptance in terms of taste, aroma, texture, and appearance based on the product acceptability survey that was conducted. Rimas ice cream and its variants can also be offered to trendy cafes and restaurants given the increasing demand for innovative offerings.

“Rimas ice cream has a high potential because of its distinct flavor and the use of organically-grown ingredients,” Ms. Marcelino added.

The team acknowledges BAR’s support to the development of products that utilize locally-available crops. “With this undertaking supported by BAR, we were able to see the economic importance of rimas as a crop which could respond to the goals of the DA of making food available and affordable, and in increasing the income of farmers. Gender and Development perspectives could also be mainstreamed into rimas ice cream enterprises as we are also giving importance to the empowerment of women in their roles in farming and food processing,” Ms. Marcelino shared.

The local governments of the six provinces in the region assisted the project in identifying potential farmer-cooperators and rimas growing sites. There is also the support from Sorsogon Dairy Farm, which has become a source of raw materials, and the Yulaik Food Company that is facilitating the conduct of feedback surveys for product improvement.

Through plant propagation techniques of tissue culture and grafting, the project was able to grow 100 plants inside the laboratory, and 50 potted plants (using tissue-culture technique) and 150 grafted rimas.

To date, BAR has given support to five projects on rimas covering benchmarking studies and researches on pest management, propagation techniques, and nursery establishment implemented by several DA agencies and state universities and colleges.

“We hope that there would be a consolidated effort on rimas. Also, I encourage fellow researchers to continue finding ways on how to utilize the indigenous crops of their localities and collaborate with other research centers or networks for the sharing of information and expertise, and for future collaboration,” Ms. Marcelino concluded. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)