Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kamote (Sweet Potato) and Gulasiman/Ngalog (Purslane) in America

Potted green- and purple-leaf kamoteng baging at a florist's shop in Tihonet, Massachusetts.

Florists in America sell the sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas Linn.), kamoteng baging or simply kamote to us Filipinos, for decorative purposes. In late spring this year, we saw them planted among the flowers in pots by the windows in Salem MA, street planters in New York City, or hanging from lampposts in the middle of Boston's Arlington Street.

Green-leaf kamote among the flowers in South Stree seaport in New York City.

We were almost tempted to pluck some green tops for blanching later and with sliced red tomatoes, white onions, serve as side salad dish with fish sauce (bagoong or patis) dressing in the typical Filipino way. Or, to use them for sinigang of course, to be strirred into the boiling sour broth just before meal is served.

Green-leaf kamote vines among flowers in plant hangers at lampposts on Arlington St., Boston MA.

Groceries and organic vegetable markets sell US-grown orange sweet potato roots/tubers mostly although the ube (violet/purple) variety sometimes appear. We may say that Filipinos in America have use them for kamote-Qs or boiled them for snacks, but more often in pinakbet and nilagang baka just like we did in our recent stay in Salem MA.  There are recipes available in the internet for other culinary treatments of these orange roots.

The Ameicans may soon find the sweet potato vine leafy tops good for the table.  Filipinos of course know of the nutritional and medicinal value of the leaves and roots.  Kamote is said to have "a higher nutritional value than the common potato" being a "good source of vitamins A, B and C, iron, calcium and phosphorus", and is "high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber."  In our folkloric medicine, the tops, especially purplish ones, [are] used for diabetes, crushed leaves applied to boils and acne, and boiled roots for diarrhea (Philippine Medicinal Plants)."  These traditional medical uses have been supported by research studies.

During our stay in San Francisco, CA, our daily green salad course included fresh purslane (Portulaca oleracea Linn.), which we've known since boyhood in the Ilocano-speaking part of Zambales as ngalog (to the Tagalogs, it's gulasiman). Our sister buys them at $6 per pound from the organic farmers' market at the Ferry Building on Saturdays, and are eaten fresh just like lettuce and other salad greens.  In the Philippines, we blanch them and like kamote tops, eaten with tomatoes and onions in fish sauce dressing.

Organic purslane for sale at the Ferry's Building, San Francisco.

We don't know why this ngalog is not a popular vegetable in the Philippines.  Because it is so abundant as a wild plant in the Ilocos provinces, it is used as feed for pigs.  Piggery owners attribute the no-smell of the pens to this vegetable; an Ilocano report said."Gapu ta ngalog laeng ti pagpakpakan, awan ngarud ti angot iti kulungan" (because we feed the pigs only with purslane, the pens do not smell at all).

In India, European and Latin American countries, purslane is a salad green. It's Spanish name is Verdolaga, and the internet abounds with its culinary use.  It's origin is attributed to India, and is reported to be Mahatma Gandhi's favorite vegetable. "Seventeenth-century English recipes," says one website, "used by the cooks of Charles II list it as a salad ingredient (Vineela, 2006)."


Those who eat purslane would be pleased to know that it is "a terrific plant source of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and iron. ...also high in vitamin C; and contains some beta-carotene and calcium."  Ngalog/gulasiman is listed among the Philippine medicinal plants; in Latin America, it is also valued for its medicinal properties.

Filipinos in diaspora in the United States may find these plants in countrysides and vacant lots nearby all ready for the foraging for a nutrients-rich Pinoy salad during spring or summer.  Whaddya say?


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