Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First of a Series: Practical Tips from Ka Abe and Ka Melly on Paaralang Bayan (School on Air)

There are ten (10) pillars of Practical Living as a way of life and philosophy.
  1. Save, save, save
  2. Live simply
  3. Attain self-sufficiency
  4. Learn science and develop your skills
  5. Share with your community
  6. Keep your surroundings clean
  7. Systematize and organize
  8. Believe in serendipity and providence
  9. Sacrifice want in favor of need
  10. Set goal for the succeeding generations
1. Garlic makes an effective and safe pesticide

There's a universal belief that garlic drives evil spirits away. Well, this time it's insect pest that it will drive out of your garden.
Here are five ways to do it, entomologists (experts on insects) tell us.

1. Plant garlic among your garden plants, say mustard, tomato, pepper, okra, beans, and let it grow with them. Here is a caution though. Don't plant it too close to the crop so as to avoid its allelopathic effect (chemical secretion from its roots to compete with nearby plants).

Garlic serves as natural repellant of insects that would otherwise attack these crops, as well as ornamental plants. You can even harvest the bulbs at the end of the season. By the way, fresh garlic leaves are used in the kitchen like those of its relatives, kutchai (Allium tuberosum) and onion (Allium sepa). Try on fried eggs, batchoy and mami.

2. Hang garlic bulb on trellis and viny crops like patola (Luffa), ampalaya, cucumber, sitao,batao,and the like. Garlic exudes a repelling odor that keeps destructive insects at bay. Now and then crush some cloves in the open to refresh the garlic odor.

3. Make a spray solution direct from its cloves. The simple method is to soak crushed garlic cloves in water for a few minutes, then spray or sprinkle the solution on plants attacked by aphids, mites, caterpillars, and other pests. Adjust strength of solution to the severity of infestation.

Other than its repellant properties, garlic is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It could be for this that it was used to ward off the Bubonic Plague carrier - a flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) during the Dark Ages in Europe. It's no wonder people at that time believed in the power of this species of the Lily family in driving away evil spirits.

4. This is another method. Soak approximately 100 grams of chopped garlic cloves in about 50 ml of mineral oil (turpentine or kerosene) or cooking oil for 24 hours. This is then slowly mixed with 500 ml of water in which 20 grams of powdered natural soap (Perla or Ivory) has been dissolved. Soap serves as emulsion to make oil and water miscible. Stir the solution well and strain it with an old shirt or nylon stocking, then store the filtrate in an earthen or glass container and keep it in a cool, dark place.

This serves as mother stock, ready for use, diluting it one part to twenty parts of water, or down to one part per hundred. It is reputed to be an effective insecticide against most common garden pests. It can be sprayed or sprinkled liberally on practically all plants, including ornamentals and orchids.

5. Garlic is planted as "trap crop." In spite of its repellant properties garlic is not pest-free. There are insects that attack it, such as thrips (Thrips tabaci), flea beetle (Epitrix), white flies (Bemesia), and some plant bugs (Hemiptera). Just allow the standing garlic plants to attract these insects, thus saving other crops from being attacked by the same insects. Then rouge the infested garlic plants and burn together with the pest.

Garlic can save us a lot of money, and eliminates the hazard to health and environment caused by chemical insecticides. It is an ancient practice in the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and ancient China, a key to natural and sustainable farming and a balance ecosystem.

Let's revive this simple practice today.

2. Throw sand into the axil of the leaves to control coconut beetle.
Have you noticed that coconut trees growing along or close to sandy shores are seldom attacked by coconut beetle? By the way this insect, Oryctes rhinoceros, is a scourge of coconut, the larva and adult burrow into the bud and destroy the whole top or crown of the tree. Because of this observation, farmers broadcast sand into the leaf axils of coconut trees in their early development stage until they have grown too tall to be reached.
There is scientific explanation to this practice. Sand which is silica, the raw material in making glass is very sharp. Under the microscope each particle is a glass shard which can penetrate without difficulty the conjunctiva of the insect's armor. This is its "Achilles heel," so to speak.

As the insect moves, the silica penetrates into the delicate tissues of the insect. As a result its injury leads to dehydration and infection, and death.

If you have young coconuts growing at home and you find signs of the pest, scoop some sand and sprinkle it in between the leaf stalks - or axils. This is safer than using chemical insecticide. And you practically spend nothing at all.

3. Prefer brown eggs over the white ones.
Brown eggs come from native fowls that subsist mainly on farm products. They are very resistant to the elements and diseases that they simply grow on the range. White eggs on the other hand, come from commercial poultry farms and are highly dependent on antibiotics and formulated feeds. Another advantage of brown eggs is that they have thicker shells. Besides, their yolk is brighter yellow as compared to that of white eggs.

Preference to natural, and organically grown, food is gaining popularity worldwide. It is because many ailments, from allergy to cancer, are traced to the kinds of food we eat. Many kinds of allergies have evolved from genetically engineered food, for which they have gained the reputation of Frankenfood, after the novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published in 1818.

4. Tanglad and soro-soro: best stuff for lechon
Lemon Grass or tanglad (Baraniw Ilk) and Sorosoro or karimbuaya (Ilk) are the most popular spices to stuff lechon - baboy, baka, manok, and big fish likebangus.

These are wild plants that do not need cultivation; they simply grow where they are likely useful, indeed an evidence of co-evolution of a man-plant relationship. Tradition and culture evolve this way. Scientists elevated this knowledge to what is called ethnobotany, a subject in the graduate school. Retrieving and conserving traditional knowledge is as important as beating a new path.

For tanglad, all you have to do is gather the mature leaves, sometimes roots, make them into a fishful bundle and pound it to release the aromatic volatile oil. Stuff the whole thing into the dressed chicken or pig or calf to be roasted (lechon). Chop the leaves when broiling fish. Crushed leaves are used to give a final scrub. Tanglad removes the characteristic odor (malansa) and imparts a pleasant aroma and taste.

Tanglad is also used to spice up lemonade and other mixed drinks. It is an excellent deodorizer for bathrooms and kitchen. It is also used in the preparation of aromatic bath.

Not so many perople know that sorosoro makes an excellent stuff for lechon. The mature leaves are chopped tangential and stuffed into the dressed chicken or bangus for broiling.It has high oil content in its milky sap. It leaves a pleasant taste and it serves as a salad itself. It has a slight sour taste. Like tanglad, sorosoro removes the characteristic flesh and fishy odor. Add chopped ginger, onion and garlic as may be desired.

One word of caution: The fresh sap of sorosoro may cause irritation of the eye and skin. Wash hands immediately. Better still, use kitchen gloves.

Happy cooking.

Tanglad - Andropogon citratus DC

Soro-soro - Euphorbia neriifolia
Updated and edited articles from Living with Folk Wisdom by the author 2010

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