I love kangkong, or water spinach as its English given name.
Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetables which is rich in vitamins and nutrients. They have a long slender leaves attached to a hollow tube stem which is crunchy or there is bite to it. Yummy
They usually grow in anything watery plot, in fields, swamp, lakes, river or even in bogs.
I remember that they grew near a dyke in the middle of your rice field when we were still living in Marag.
Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them overpowering the water surface. Good thing they are so delicious.
I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprout. I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attached itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer it gets. That still gives me nightmare to date.
My father did smoke whenever he plowed the field. He would use the burning ember of the cigarette to unhook any pesky leech.
Oops, back to kangkong, they are delicious in sinigang as were as blanch and made into a salad.
Rhizomes of spicy ginger stood majestically amongst the vegetables.
The onions, shyly confident with their breathtaking thin delicate skin, that they make one cry!.
The daikon radish is the fairest of them all and knows it very well. 🙂
In the far corner stood a little gourd, waiting, watching, hoping to be noticed.
But she was different from the rest, she was wan and pale with a taste that was hard to explain . Day after day she watched the others with their boasting, their preening, their chattering, their joy.
She can’t help but compare herself with them. The more she does the more she thought that she cannot measure up with anyone. As days passed, she can’t bear it anymore, she planned and plotted to carry out a most heinous scheme.
As soon as it got dark, she stealthily went from one vegetable to the next and the next until she had taken all their outstanding qualities.
Overnight the ampalaya became the belle of the Green Garden. Everyone where asking where did she come from. She was admired for her beauty and utter perfection.
But there is no secret that can be hidden forever. The other vegetables start to suspect that there is something that is not quite right.
As the sun was just setting, the vegetables covertly followed ampalaya in her corner of the Green Garden. To their amazement, they saw her peel each of the layers of the qualities that made her so perfect. Without much ado, the vegetables frogmarched the now wan and pale ampalaya to see the Fairy Queen of the Green Garden.
The Queen was not amused. She looked over at the amplaya and could not believe why she was not satisfied with her beautiful pale appearance! As a punishment, she let it be known that from the next new light, the ampalaya will wake up with dark warty lumpy skin and the bitterest of taste. And she would always either be loved or hated for all eternity.
Moral of the story: everyone is beautiful, you just have to cultivate your own asset!
Siling Labuyo and Siling Mahaba, photo by PH Morton
Chilies – Hot & Spicy
There are many varieties of chilies in Asia, where spicy food are favoured. In the Philippines, there are a lot of different kinds of this spice but the two main ones are the siling labuyo which is the small red chilies on the above photo. They are bird’s eyes chilies, which are really hot. The above green one is the other popular one. They are used in sinigang and paksiw (both delicious recipes). They are also rather hot.
To lessen the hotness, the white membrane and seeds that run through the chilies should be removed.
As a rule of thumb the smaller the chili the spicier it is.
Chayote is what is called sayote in the Philippines. It is also known as vegetable pear worldwide because of its pear shape and colour. Chayote belongs to the gourd family like cucumber, squash and melon. Chayote is a rich source of vitamin C.
It is a much love vegetable in the Philippnes as it is very versatile. It can be stir-fried, lightly stewed and added to many recipes. It can also a good substitute for the unripe papaya for a chicken soup called tinola.
Sayote is mostly grown in the mountainous part of the Ilocos region in the Philippines. In fact the photo above is taken while we were trekking the rice terraces of Benguet.
The vine grows supported by chicken wire against a fence.
At the back of our house in Marag, plenty of gabi or taro used to grow. They grew next to our well (bubon) where the vicinity always has water.
Gabi growing profusely in our backyard was a Godsend. It was a ready source for a vegetarian viand. Thank goodness we also had a constant supply of coconuts which goes deliciously with taro.
As children, we were told to treat gabi with respect. Eaten raw the leaves and stalks can be poisonous as they contain oxalic acid. The sap that comes out when the stalks and leaves are torn can cause itch.
Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) Medicinal Herb
This was the herb given to us by the Lady of Necodemos, the manghihilot (healing massager) when we consulted her for stomach aches which seems to have afflicted our whole family in the Philippines after going for an overnight swim at Club Manila East.
She said to make a drink of tea from this herb.
She gave the following instruction:
Chop the herb and then boil in plenty of water. Leave to simmer for at least 10 to 15 minutes with the pan uncovered.
Turn off the stove and leave this herbal tea to steep for at least 10-15 minutes.
Strain and drink half a cup every four hours.
This herb will settle your stomach and digestive system.
Remaining tea can be stored for over a couple of days in a clean jar in the fridge.