Countless indigenous vegetables deserve to be acknowledged, yet many of them are forgotten, underutilized, or driven to extinction.
According to Dr. Lorna E. Sister of the Institute of Crop Science (ICropS) under the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS) of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), several threats contribute to the continuous decline of indigenous vegetable production.
This includes pollution, use of harmful herbicides, low market demand, conversion of lands to infrastructure and residential areas, and overpromotion of high-yielding crops over indigenous varieties.
In hopes of rekindling the public’s interest in the use and production of Philippine indigenous vegetables, a project titled ‘Documentation of Indigenous Vegetables in the Philippines,’ was formed by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) and implemented by the ICropS-CAFS.
Funded by DOST-PCAARRD, researchers from the ICropS-CAFS gathered data on indigenous vegetables from 75 communities in 20 provinces.
Existing literature materials from institutions, individual researchers or authors, and websites were also used.
Traditional names, occurrence, and distribution of 145 indigenous vegetables were among the data they collected.
From this, they published a total of 20 pamphlets featuring some of these veggies. Each material provides basic information on indigenous vegetables including their characteristics, usage, recipes, nutritional composition, and more.
Philippine vegetables to preserve and promote
The DOST-PCAARRD previously introduced 10 pamphlets covering information on ampalaya, lasona gulay or shallots, bawang gulay (also referred to as Ilocos white gold), gabi, himbabao, lagikway, lubi-lubi or niyog-niyogan, pako, talbos ng kamoteng kahoy, talinum or talilong.
The recently unveiled publication series of indigenous species include the following: Fruits from Artocarpus genus (langka, kamansi, rimas, marang, and chipuho), ubod ng niyog, ubod at puso ng saging, labong, alugbati, flower vegetables (leaves of malunggay, katuray, kalabasa, kapas kapas, and kakawate), tapilan or rice bean, ‘weedy vegetables’ (sapsapon, pansit-pansitan, and more), vegetables from Amaranth family (kulitis and lupo), and lastly, vegetables for nursing mothers.
During the virtual presser, Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, Executive Director of DOST-PCAARRD, said, “We wanted to highlight the word ‘rediscover’ to emphasize the need to promote the utilization of our katutubong gulay in various regions in the Philippines.” He adds, “We hope that through this activity, the wonder and appreciation of the Filipinos to indigenous vegetables will be ignited.”
(This article, written by Vina Medenilla, was first published in the Manila Bulletin on October 26, 2021 at 10:00 AM.)