Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Folk Wisdom for Growing up Practical Tips (Lagro-Laha Summer Workshop Lesson No 1, April 17, 2013)

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                                                

1. Eggs are easier to shell if immersed in tap water immediately after boiling.  Well-boiled egg shows both white and yoke completely cooked. Over boiled egg shows dark coloration around the yolk, and dull white color. Eggs and chicken meat should be well done as precaution to the emerging bird flu virus. Overcooked eggs on the other hand may be carcinogenic.

 2. Fresh sugpo or shrimp is somewhat translucent, and the body is firm, even if  it is newly molted.   Don't buy when the cephalothorax or head is not intact. This means the shrimp you are buying is  no longer fresh. To obtain bright red color, bring water to boil, then immerse the shrimp just long enough to turn completely red. Don't overcook. 
Likewise for squid, bring the water to boil, before putting it in. Be sure it is overcooked otherwise it will be tough and stringy.   
3. In general you know if the fish you are buying is newly caught and fresh by the firmness of the body, luster of its scale, full and clear eyes, and bright red gills. If it attracts flies, more so the blue bottle fly or bangaw, definitely it has entered the stage of decomposition.  Beware of fish clandestinely brought to market from fish-kill areas - fishponds, fish pens and cages, freshwater and marine, that undergo periodic mass death due to toxic conditions of the environment like low O2 and high CO2 levels, pollution, decomposition of algae, and sudden change in temperature.   

For green mussel or tahong, be keen on Department of Health or DOH warning of Red Tide, a  phenomenon taking place in marine environment especially near estuaries, in coves where shellfish is cultured or found living naturally. Red Tide is caused by a bloom of dinoflagellates that carry toxin - Paralytic Shellfish Poison or PSP - that affect the nervous system, which can lead to death. By the way, shellfish also carries toxic metals like lead which accumulate in their body. Shellfish - tahong and talaba (oyster) in particular, have an eating habit called luxury feeding, an adaptation that compensates for their sessile condition. 
  Saba variety; banana stalk for packaging seaweeds, ripe fruits, leafy vegetables, 
and live fish like dalag and hito.

    These photos show how fresh fish like dilis (anchovies) and tilapia are 
cooked into tamalisBanana leaves are first wilted over open flame
 or live charcoal – not smoky fire.

4. Banana stalk and leaves  as wrapper. Packaging with banana stalk from the trunk is ideal for fresh food like seaweed (pukpoklo or Codium edule) as shown in the photo. Banana stalk is also used in packaging vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and eggs. It is also ideal for live fish like dalag and hito. These fish can remain alive for several days in transport and rough handling. Their resistance is traced to their habit of aestivating in summer while encrust in mud. Packaging in banana stalk simulates the fish undergoing dormancy while in transport and temporary storage. 

The stalk of banana is actually made of a series of air chambers that work on the principle of car radiator. That's how efficient its cooling effect is. These chambers trap oxygen and moisture which also explains why sliced banana stalk is a good substitute of ice pack to reduce fever.

The columnar arrangement of the chambers supported by thick outer and inner walls absorbs impact of rough handling, and makes the whole structure virtually crush-proof. It is from this that the corrugated cardboard was invented, so with the corrugated galvanized roofing.

Cooking tamales with banana leaves 
  • Use banana leaves instead of aluminum foil. 
  • Don't fry, steam with banana leaves. 
  • Do away with plastics and Styrofoam.  
  • And don't use microwave oven.
  • Use claypot (or stainless utensils).
  • Line the bottom with wilted banana leaves.  
  • Wood fuel imparts a natural taste.  
  • Cook with low fire. Don't overcook.
  • Serve while hot, let your guest unwrap with gusto.       
Wash fish, prepare ingredients: onion, ginger, tomato, and a dash of salt.  Wrap in parcel (serving size per person) with wilted banana leaves. Line pot with wilted banana leaves. Cook slowly with firewood or charcoal. Be sure to cover the pot while cooking. This is the principle of steaming. 

Banana leaves have many other uses outside of the kitchen like floor polisher, padding when ironing clothes, and source of antibiotics (wax scraped from the underside of the leaf). 

5. Red sugar blocks.  On the farm sugarcane juice is cooked to make sugar and other products, among them are these are two fancy looking blocks molded with coconut shell (left) and clay pot or banga. In the case of the latter, the thick sugar is allowed to solidify outside the pot.  Red sugar is healthier than white or refined sugar.  Red sugar is the answer to diabetic conditions, and alternative to artificial sugars like aspartame, nutrasweet, saccharin and other brand names.  People are becoming conscious of the ill effects of artificial sugars. Why don't you try thes sugar blocks.   In the market there are other shapes to choose from.   

 6. Burning rice hay deprives the field of nutrients that would otherwise supply the needs of next crop, principally Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Trace elements are also destroyed. Potassium however is not destroyed, hence rice fields generally have adequate levels of Potassium. Burning hay also deprives farm animals of roughage, an important feed in summer and off season. One advantage of burning however, is pest control by breaking the life cycle of insects, fungi, bacteria and virus, weeds notwithstanding. Agriculturists recommend conversion of rice hay into compost, mushroom bed and mulch. Rice hay is also a good material in the manufacture of paper and wall board. The amount of hay produced from a hectare is 5 to 10 tons.

7. Spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus) is a sturdy weed growing on the upland and lowland. When allowed to mature, its thorns develop into long and sharp spikes that could hurt farm workers and animals. Solution: The seedlings are harvested as spinach soon after they have reached three to five inches, while the thorns are still tender. 

Amaranth is rich in vitamins and minerals, principally Phosphorus, Calcium, and Iron. It contains 2.33 percent protein and 5.53 percent carbohydrates, slightly lower than its relative, Amaranthus viridis or kulitis (Aztec word, which suggests it could have originated in America). Kulitis grows on open wasteland in the Philippines and throughout the tropics. Amaranth has high Vitamins B and C, and has good digestible fiber. 

The nutritional value of Amaranth or spinach is exaggerated as the source of tremendous strength of Popeye, a comic character. Like other wild vegetables - saluyot and kamkamote - amaranth is a seasonal weed. The seeds remain dormant in the dry season, then germinate with first rains usually in May. It is among the vegetables in the wild that provide nutrition to rural folk and the market as the regular crop season is about to start. 

Talinum (T. triangulare)
a wild growing vegetable
 8. Citrus is the most common plant aromatherapy in the barrio. Suha (Citrus maxima), dalangita, kabuyao, and calamansi are found growing everywhere.  Pick some mature leaves, crush toi release the soothing aromatic smell which helps revive an unconscious person, or induce easier breathing. rub with the palm and apply as vapor ointment, just like commercial brands.  

By the way citrus leaves are used in the preparation of pig lechon by rubbing the skin with crushed citrus leaves. It is also a deodorizer in toilets. Crush some fresh leaves, place in an airy receptacle which also serves as decor, and presto! you CR smell fresh and clean. To have a variety, next time use tanglad or eucalyptus, following the same procedure.    
 8. Spice Plants at home. siling labuyo (Capsicum annuum) is for spice and tinola (chicken soup); basil (above, right) makes dinuguan superb. 

Kutchai (Allium tuberosum), top left, makes scrambled egg and batchoy real chef's favorites. Why don't you try on kilawin - fish or meat? Tanglad (right) is still the best spice for snail - kuhol and suso, especially with gata (expressed coconut). Lest you forget to stuff lechon (roasted pig or calf) and relyeno (stuffed bangos of milkfish, also tilapia and other fish) with tanglad.

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