Monday, January 14, 2013

Folk Wisdom for Kids: Wild food plants are also called “survival plants.” (Ninth of a Series)

Folk Wisdom for Kids: Wild food plants are also called “survival plants.” (Ninth of a Series)
Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) 
with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday

 Squash flower ,  bagbagkong flower buds

Survivors of war, plane crash, shipwreck have a lot to lessons to share, among them are edible plants that kept them alive.

Wild food plants, may be a relative term today.  Saluyot (Corchorus olitorius) and spinach (Amaranthus sp) which used to grow in the wild are now planted commercially. But the bulk of wild edible plants remains ethnic to remote communities and certain cultures.  For example, nami (Dioscorea hispida) is a poisonous root crop but natives in the hinder lands where this plant abundantly grows know how to remove the poison before eating the starch of the tuber.  During WW II people were forced to eat on such unlikely food such as the corm (enlarged base) of wild banana (butolan or balayang) and maguey (Agave cantala), earning the name famine food

Many of these wild edible plants are facing extinction, including the less popular varieties of common crops. It is because our attention has been on the propagation of economically important ones, and those our palate has been accustomed to. Until lately however, people are becoming more conscious of natural and nutritious food, evading many crops which are raised with chemicals, and lately, crops that have been genetically altered (Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO).     

Other wild food plants which are found in the market are portulaca (ngalog), dampalit, katuray, papait, talinum, alugbati, rosel, spinach, gulasiman, wild ampalaya, himbaba-o (alukong), to name a few.  Old folks have also a way of making ordinary things edible such as the male flower of rimas (Arthocarpus communis) is made into sweets, the same way the thick rind of pomelo (Citrus maxima) is sweetened in boiling sugarcane juice. Sweets are also made from kamias (Averrhoa balimbi.

All these made a green revolution in some corner, so to speak.  It might as well usher a signal that not all times is food plentiful.

A short list of wild food plants
·         Talisay (Terminalia catappa) bears nut like fruits that contain small seeds that taste like almond.
·         Tibig (Ficus nota.) The fruits are edible and have a good flavor.  They are soft and fleshy when mature.
·         Isis (Ficus odorata) or isis because its rough leaves are used as natural sandpaper for utensil and wood.  Its fruits like tibig are edible.  
·         Balleba (Vallisnera) is an aquatic plant growing in clear streams, ponds and lakes, whose leaves appear like ribbon, hence it is also called ribbon grass. The leaves are gathered and served fresh with tomato, onion and salt.
·         Apulid or water chestnut.  Our native apulid produces very small bulbs - only one-third the size of the Chinese or Vietnamese apulid.  It grows wild in places where water is present year round. It is boiled, peeled and served. 
·         Aratiles (Muntingia calabura) bears plenty of tiny berries which are red to violet when ripe. It is sweet and somewhat aromatic. 
·         Wild sinkamas (Pacchyrhizus erosus) has enlarged roots which may remain in the soil even after the plants has dried up in summer. It is gathered and eaten raw.
·         Urai (Amaranthus spinosus). The plant become spiny as it matures. It is the very young plant that is gathered as vegetable.
·         Mulberry (Morus alba). Its leaves are the chief food of silkworm.  The fruits when ripe are purple to black, and while very small are juicy and fairly sweet.
·         Wild Taro (Colocasia sp.). The Palawan gabi grows twice the height of man and produces a large corm.  There is a technique in preparing and cooking the corm. Or making starch out of it.  The key is thorough cleaning and cooking. 
·         Gulasiman (Portulaca oleracea) has succulent leaves and stems which are cooked as vegetables. 
·         Alugbati (Basella rubra) is a twining plant with reddish stems and leaves. The tops are gathered as vegetable which is mucilaginous when cooked.
·         Talinum ((Talinum triangulare). The succulent stems and leaves are gathered as vegetable

Wild food plants include corm of banana, core of maguey (Agave cantala), bamboo shoot, bignay (Antidesma binuis), kumpitis (Clitorea purpurea), kamkamote, rattan fruits, sabawil, alukong, lotus seed, wild papaya, botolan (seeded banana), wild mushrooms, and many others.

Flower vegetables are nutritious. They go well with many recipes - from salad to bulanglang.

Puso ng saging is high in tannin and it’s good for diabetic patients. It can be an extender of expensive meat burgers. No kari-kari is without banana blossom. Pesang dalag is best with puso ng saging cut in chunks. Ginatang puso ng saging, anyone? When I was a kid, I love to eat the inner heart raw. It tastes like artichoke.

Squash flowers are high in carotin. It improves eyesight and prevents blindness. It is excellent with saluyot when cooking bulanglang or diningding. Add fresh mushroom. The best sahug when you are in the countryside is freshwater shrimp. If you have no problem with cholesterol, why not use as sahug bagnet (lechon kawali) from Vigan.

Alokong is a staminate or male flower which is gathered from the male tree. The female tree does not produce edible flowers. Because the tree is very tall, gatherers take the short cut of cutting the branches and take immature flowers and buds as well. Try buridibud by mashing kamote to thicken the soup. A unique recipe of Ilocanos is to combine alokong and malunggay pods in juvenile or succulent stage, and add broiled hito or bangos as sahug.

Katuray flower is blanched and served with tomato and a dash of salt. It is good for people who have elevated blood pressure. It is cooked the way alokong is prepared with kamote and sahug of fried or broiled bangos, hito or tilapia.

Another flower vegetable comes from madre de cacao or kakawate which blooms in summer. The flowers are our local counterpart of cherry blossom. Open the pot when it comes to a boil to reduce the characteristic bean taste.

Sampalok or tamarind flowers are gathered for sinigang. Malunggay flowers which include newly formed pods are cooked the same way as any bulanglang.

Cauliflower and broccoli are perhaps the most popular commercial vegetable flowers. They belong to Family Cruciferae. They grow on semi temperate and temperate countries, although they are grown in the tropics during the cool months. One disadvantage of Crucifers is that they are the most sprayed of all vegetables, and are likely to carry chemical residues hazardous to health. Cauliflower and broccoli are also among the most expensive vegetables. They are prepared in restaurants as chopsuey, dressing, soup, pickle and the like.

Other flower vegetables come from the following plants:
Flowers are not only for decoration and offering. Other than their aesthetic value, they are delicious, nutritious and unique.

Please eat the flowers. ~

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