Category: Postulant Gardener

Coconut, Tree of Life

Coconuts, photo by Reuben Ortega

Coconut tree, photo by PH Morton

Coconut, Tree of Life

In the Philippines, where I grew up, the coconut is very important that it is considered as the tree of life.

The basic reason is that the tree trunks, the whole fruits they bear, the leaves, in essence the whole tree can be of use to us.

Coconut is big business as well. The Philippines is a second major exporter of copra, which is dried coconut meat/flesh, a good source of coconut oil, which can be used for cooking, shampoo, and ingredients to beauty products and use for medicinal purposes..

The leaves are used to bind and wrap specialty foods like tupig, a much love dessert from the Ilocos region, where some of my ancestors lived.

The long spinedly woody part that runs through the fronds can be gathered up together to make a good stick broom called walis tingting in the Philippines.

The trunk of the tree is solid and strong hence it is known to be used in making wooden bridges and huts.  In fact there is a beautiful building in the Philippines called the Coconut Palace, a project of Imelda Marcos.

The ‘water’ from a young or mature coconut fruit is a delicious thirst quencher.

The shell from the fruit can be made into charcoal.

This is my favourite, have fun polishing your floor and get good exercise by using the coconut husk.

These are just a few where you can use the coconut, the tree of life.

But having said that falling coconuts have killed more people that by shark attacks!

For the Filipino legend, click here.

 

Chayote (Sayote)

Chayote vine, photo by JMorton

Sayote, photo by JMorton

Chayote (Sayote)

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.

Taro (Colocasia Esculenta )

Gabi, photo by JMORTON

TARO, PHOTO BY JMORTON

Taro (Colocasia Esculenta )

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.

Croton Punctatum

Punctatum, photo by JMorton

Croton Punctatum

The above plant grows profusely in the Philippines, where the photo was taken.  It is apparently called punctatum of the croton family.

As a young girl, still living in Marag my sister and I would go to our neighbours, who grew the plants in their garden to give us cuttings.  The neighbours were so good to us that they would allow us to turn their once beautiful shrubs hedging their yards into stringy sorry sight of bald shrubs as if a ravenous swarm of locusts had been.  🙂 🙂 🙂

With our treasure of twigs of beautiful narrow verdant green leaves speckled with golden dust, we would dash home and plant these twigs in our front yard.  We would religiously water our new plant for at least a few days and then we forget as by then we moved on to another hobby.  Some of the twigs would live and some dries up and shrivelled under the punishing sun.

I must say that they do make a lovely hedge.  Their bright leaves have golden dusting and they are just beautiful under the sun.

 

Stinging Nettles

Nettles, photo by JMorton

Stinging Nettles

If suddenly rack with the desire to emulate Julie Andrews to do a turn of the Sound of Music ensure that the field is not one of verdant nettles with their beautiful  bluish purplish little flowers.  Otherwise you will be stinging not singing.

Nettles give painful sting like you don’t want to know.  The Almighty God know of this that he ensured that a dock leaf is growing nearby! 🙂

Timber for Lumber

Timber, photo by JMorton

Timber for Lumber

The words timber and lumber are often interchanged in their usage.

I have to admit I sometimes forget the difference.  So I used a visual memory by remembering Hollywood films, where the lumberjacks would shout ‘TIMBER’ as a tree which just been cut from the bottom would fall.

Timber is the tree trunk, while a lumber is a long wood material sawn from the timber.

When I think of lumber, it always remind me of the Monty Python I am a Lumberjack ditty.  🙂 🙂 🙂

By the way you can tell the age of a tree by counting the growth rings.

Snapped: Ampalaya (Bitter gourd)

Ampalaya, photo by PH Morton

Snapped: Ampalaya (Bitter gourd)

It is said that if it is bitter then it is good for you.  You only have to remember the taste of the different drugs (as in medicine) 🙂  you have taken over the years.  Bitter as bitter can be!!!

In the bitterness scale ampalaya can reign supreme, so much so that it is now an accepted crude metaphor for a person being bitter.  🙂 🙂 🙂  like “Ampalaya ka naman, Ate” (you are a bitter gourd, sister) pertaining to someone, who is on a full on tirade. 🙂

Anyway, bitter it may be, ampalaya is delicious in its own way that it is a major ingredients in many a Filipino recipe.  Just search for ampalaya or bitter gourd in the search box on the top right of this site.

By the way ampalaya or bitter gourd is also referred to as bitter melon.

Ampalaya Recipe:

Puso Ng Saging (Banana Heart)

Banana heart, photo by JMorton

Puso Ng Saging (Banana Heart)

I love puso ng saging or literally means banana heart in English.

There are plenty of recipes making use of banana heart, like ginataang puso ng saging, kilawing puso ng saging or even in kare-kare.

Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) Medicinal Herb

Pansit pansit herb, photo by JMorton

Pancit pancit, photo by JMorton

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 of 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 over a couple of days in a clean jar in the fridge.

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