Thursday, November 17, 2005

Recipe: Edamame

Usually served as an appetizer in Japanese restaurants, edamame is a perfect snack to have at home. It is fresh soybeans which is served simply in a bowl with or without fine sea salt. Soybeans have the highest amount of protein compared to all other legumes.

Plunge fresh edamame into boiling water. Bring water back to a boil and cook beans for 7 minutes. Drain and place under running water to cool. Serve with a sprinkling of fine sea salt.

Remove beans from pods before placing in mouth.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Food that goes well with a Green Salad

Roast Chicken
Roast Pork
Cheese Souffle
Steamed Prawns

and a glass of wine...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gaia's Garden

Have I been gone for 2 months already? I have been reading up on organic farming and marketing, not to mention actual visits to my lovely garden. I will start to regularly post and treat this site more like a farm journal. I am learning more and more about organic farming and would like to pass this on to whomever might find this useful or simply for a good read or anecdote. As soon as I get my new gas range, I will also start posting more recipes.

My farm is looking nice with neat rows of vegetable beds and terraces. Here are before & after photos

For harvest in November:


Salad Greens:
Sylvetta Arugula
Bau Sin Mustard
Mizuna Mustard
Rosette Green Tatsoi
Bronze Arrow Lettuce

Potted Herbs:

I will have a stand in the Organic Market at the Legaspi Park on Sundays starting Nov 6. It’s called Gaia’s Garden and this is what my flyers will say:

Gaia’s Garden is an organic kitchen garden located in Antipolo. We grow gourmet vegetables, fruits and herbs. The variety of produce we have are specifically chosen for their flavor and nutritional value. Gaia’s Garden is organized using sustainable, environmental and organic principles.

All my seed orders arrived a week ago and we will start germinating next week. I should have a new batch of fruits and vegetables available in January! In the meantime its freshly-picked edamame and salad greens every week at the market. I’m trying to organize a mid-week delivery for those who want fresh vegetables during the weekday. But one step at a time. I still have so much to do for the market!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Plastic Good Enough to Eat

As I was getting my regular dose of food blogging I came across Food Museum's post on bioplastics. How wonderful I thought! Finally after 10 years of searching for plastic spoons made of cornstarch after reading about it in the unlikely source W magazine. Better late than never, bottling and packaging companies are looking into making plastics made of cornstarch instead of petroleum which is toxic and hazardous to the environment. Bioplastics are biodegradable and edible!

Here are some websites and pdf files to peruse and use, some have homemade recipes for making bioplastics.

Information on cornstarch based biodegradable plastic bags made by Australian company Mater-Bi

An interesting and educational site for science students and anyone else actually

Bioplastics cost the same as conventional plastics and can be eaten too!

Southeast Asian companies into bioplastics

Switching to biodegradable packing fillers

Decomposing cutlery

Turning biodegradable plastic bags into compost

Make your own bioplastic: teachers/pdf/fieldguide1/plastic.pdf aitc/lessons/extras/recipes/plastic.pdf

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


This study by The Organic Center for Education and Promotion shows that organically grown fruits and vegetables contain more antioxidants than those grown conventionally. The site also describes the benefits to your health when eating fruits and veggies that are rich in antioxidants.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Organics, Ethics and Snobbery

I read an interesting article about organic food, written by the Accidental Hedonist. It is an article in response to another article written in the New York Times. I completely agree with AH in that organic food and its underlying philosophy is for everyone and actually, should be integrated by everyone, but unfortunately the organic lifestyle tends to be afforded exclusively by the privileged. The article was written with an American perspective but it does apply in every country that grows organic food. All except Cuba where the conventional way of growing fruits and vegetables is organically.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Organic Market

The Organic Market was teeming with fresh produce yesterday. I bought a big load of dalandan, some tomatoes, ampalaya and eggs. I went as early as 7:30 am to catch the sale of millet suman which sells out by 10:00 am. I bought 30 of these pricey sumans to give everyone in my household a taste! Suman, for those not in the know, is a mildly sweet, sticky, glutinous pudding wrapped and steamed in pandan leaves. Suman is usually made with rice and sometimes casava. It is Filipino street food brought to new and nutritious heights by Maribel Van Hoven who cooks and sells the millet suman or bud bud kabog at the Salcedo Market on Saturdays and the Legaspi Market on Sundays. Maribel is a big fan of millet because of its nutritional and culinary value. She wanted to promote the use of this tasty seed and make it a common household food, ultimately creating bud bud kabog. According to Vincent Van Hoven who does the actual selling for his wife (isn't that adorable?) the millet used in their suman grows wild in the mountains of Manguyod, Negros Occidental. The exact location is unknown. Once a week, a lone indigenous gatherer comes down from the mountains and sells the wild millet to the Van Hovens. The millet then travels by plane to Manila and is brought to Ayala Alabang to be cooked into a delicious suman by Maribel. Then the suman is brought to the weekend Markets in Makati. No wonder they're costly!

Afterwards, I went with Sister Rosalie to visit Dr. Carandang, a retired Dean of Agronomy in Los Banos, Laguna. He raises ducks and makes salted duck eggs as a hobby. The eggs were good. Not too salty, perfectly cooked and without the toxic red dye commonly used to distinguish salted chicken eggs from plain ones. Salted duck eggs are larger and have more yolk to whites ratio than salted chicken eggs. That's the way I like it. We were a given a tour of his private farm before going to his home for lunch where I met his lovely wife, daughter and grandchild. We were treated to a homecooked meal of Salted Egg Salad, Ubod Lumpia, Vegetable Sinigang and Shrimp Lumpia. For dessert we had Leche Flan made with duck eggs and fresh fruit from the garden. Yes, that's right I said fresh fruits from the garden. The Carandangs have the plumpest lakatan bananas I have ever seen which will be available in my farm next year thanks to the kindness and generosity of Dr. Carandang. They also have rambutan and atis trees growing in their backyard. What an idyllic life.

I then left Sister Rosalie and the charming Carandangs to go to the University of the Philippines, Los Banos DTRI (don't ask me what it stands for) to buy their famous milk, yogurt and carabao cheese. There was no cheese which was very disappointing. Lastly, I went to Herbana Farms to talk with Gil Carandang (no relation to Dr. Carandang), my organic farm landscaper, about my change of plans.

Plans on what to plant on my farm will have to change because the seeds I ordered will arrive in a month and a half. In the meantime, I will have to make use of what's available in the country. There are quite a number of conventional and hybrid seeds available but of course I cannot use. So I will be planting organic seedlings from organic farmers around Luzon. Corn, edamame, herbs, flowers and coffee are on the agenda. These organic produce will be available in two months together with fresh eggs and maybe some sprouts. Ok gotta go and have my breakfast of dalandan juice and bud bud kabog. Bon Apetit!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Croquant Cookies

I made these cookies for my bestest friend Rosanna's baby shower, which I happily hosted. These cookies were a hit and together with the rest of the menu resulted in a chorus of "Macky, you should open your own restaurant..." Well, I have Nic of blog Bakingsheet to thank for that. I tweaked his recipe, like any self-respecting cook would, and added croquants instead of caramel to the batter. I also used organic Muscovado sugar from Bacolod in place of brown sugar.

Chocolate Chip Croquant Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Muscovado sugar
2 eggs
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup croquant

Preheat oven to 375F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time. Don't worry if the batter separates, just keep beating until it becomes smooth. Stir in flour mixture, followed by croquant and chocolate chunks until batter is uniform and no streaks of flour remain.
Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto silicon baking sheet. Cookies will spread, so allow at least 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen.

The rest of the menu...

Whats food without a party?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Organic Standards

It is very unfortunate that there are no laws requiring organic certification for farms or ready-made food that claim their products organic. Anyone may say they are selling or growing organic produce even if they are not. Anyone may claim organic standards based on their own definition of organic.

I'm learning about all of this as I was innocently buying organic produce wherever a grocer claimed it. When I spoke with Mara Loinaz, a proponent for organic produce and organizer of the Organic Market, she said that most who claim organic are actually not. Mara inspects the farms who want to sell their produce at her market to make sure they are up to her standards of organic. But what exactly are the Philippine standards of organic? The Phil. government has a body that certifies farms and ready-made food, but it isn't required. As I understand it it is used by organic farms that export their produce because the importing countries require certification. I did a little research and found a brief explanation of organic standards by the Department of Agriculture. Similarly, the Agribusiness & Marketing Assistance Service and MASIPAG, "a farmer-led network of people's organizations, non-government organizations and scientists working towards the sustainable use and management of biodiversity...", have both written their standards for organic farming.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Recipe: Chicken Adobo with Coconut Cream

Converting a piece of land to an organic farm takes time. And I don't mean the actual conversion of the property. I mean the planning stages, which is where I'm at at the moment. Thus, my plans for the organic farm will have to be delayed. As of now I have gone through landscape plans that Gil created for me and I'm in the process of doing my own research on the marketability of what I plan to grow. In the meantime I can start posting recipes using organic ingredients I find at the Organic Market. As much as I can anyway. There just aren't many organic ingredients around here. I used free-range chickens and organic Arengga vinegar for this recipe. I will try my best to use as much organic ingredients as possible, only using non-organic ingredients when organic ones are not available.

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Cream

4 whole free-range chickens (850-900 kgs each), cut into pieces - save remaining carcass to make chicken broth
1 3/4 cup soy sauce
1 3/4 cup Arenga vinegar
1 cup water
2 whole bulbs garlic or more, washed with water
3 large bay leaves
1 1/2 cups coconut cream - optional

Free-range chicken hardly has any fat so I will skip the usual frying of chicken parts before simmering in the soy-vinegar broth.

Place all ingredients, except coconut cream in a Dutch oven and simmer, covered, over medium heat for about 40 minutes. Remove cover and continue simmering for another 15 to 20 minutes. You may have to raise the heat a little to keep it simmering. At this point the broth should start to evaporate and you should be left with a thicker, syrupy sauce. I actually forgot to remove the cover which left me with a watery, but no less flavorful, sauce.

Add the coconut cream.

You may remove the garlic bulbs before serving or serve it with the adobo and simply squeeze the bulbs to release the creamy garlic inside. Serve with rice.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Green Green Grass

I went to see my plot of land and it was covered with giant grass that reached my shoulders! Apparently in the two weeks I was gone the grass that had been cut grew back and with a vengence. It should have been pulled out by the roots. It is becoming more and more obvious that Renato has no idea what he is doing. It is going to take much more work now to clear the land. I wish I had my camera because it is truly amazing how fast and prolific it grew. The wonders of nature.

I took Gil to do a quick survey of the area and he is now working on landscaping it for my organic farm. I hope this happens before I croak.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bad News

Things are starting to go wrong. Two weeks ago my so called supervisor/farm manager disappeared. Vanished. Or so I thought. I called a friend of his who's number I happened to have because this friend was suppose to supervise the clearing of my lot while Renato was away finishing his commitments. Well, I found out that he has not been hit by a truck or murdered on the bus but was in Bicol province and would be back shortly. The nerve! He simply left without a word in the middle of farming operations. He didn't even bother answering my phone calls or replying to my texts. I believe this man is out to con me. By the time he started clearing my lot he had said he had quit he's former job and would work for me full time. That doesn't seem to be the case at all. And to think he was going to charge me P30,000 a month! I agreed to that because he gave me a plan that essentially said would make an enormous profit thus justifying his salary. Too bad. I really was looking forward to working with him. He said all the right things.

The next thing is last night it began to rain very hard. It is still raining hard this morning. This means it is the start of the rainy season in Manila. Can I still plant?

The good news is just before Renato's disappearing act I met someone at the Biosearch who can take his place. Gil Carandang's credentials are exemplary. He also owns and manages an organic farm in Laguna. He also holds internship programs with agriculture students from schools in the USA. He also certifies organic farms that comply with strict government standards (something Renato claimed he was doing too). Apparently, this organic formula that Renato supposedly invented was being sold by Gil. Not only that but he is also selling the recipe for the formula! Could it be that Renato took this recipe and used it as his own? I wouldn't be surprised. I wouldn't be surprised if I found out he had a criminal record.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Biosearch Fair

I spent yesterday morning at the Biosearch Fair which went on at the World Trade Center. I had also been there on their first day last Friday and had gone back this time to take Sister Rosalie (Vibrant Earth Foundation). I wanted her to see the Virgin Coconut Oil machine extractor and consider it for the foundation's farm in Quezon Province. The farm is 28 hectares and full of coconut trees. Carica, the company that sells this machine, also trains workers on how to produce Virgin Coconut Oil and coconut food products. For all vegetarians and health buffs out there, Carica's coconut burger is really and truly meaty delicious! Sister Rosalie unceremoniously ate her coconut burger in 20 seconds flat. Actually, I don't really know how many seconds it was but it was pretty fast. And to think she was telling me to chew my food 50 times (I'm not kidding) before swallowing.

OPTA members were there in full force and some products were really very interesting and quite tasty. First on my list of wonderful food products is the Arenga vinegar. Made from the Sugar Palm Tree which grows wild along the riverbanks and ravines of Philippine forests, its sap is then fermented in earthenware jars and sold in glass bottles. This vinegar is so good I sometimes drink it with a spoon! I'm not the only one who thinks so as it has won awards in Asia, Germany and Australia. If you like Chicken Adobo, you will love it using Arenga vinegar. Second on my list is the Pili Nut Oil. Cold-pressed and virgin, it is healthy with a distinct nutty taste. I must make a salad dressing. Third on my list is the naturally roasted sea salt sold by the same organic producer, Fernando Simon. Fine and flaky and not too salty, I can see myself sipping Bloody Mary's. This sounds like a menu in the making and I must oblige in honor of a successful shopping day at Biosearch. Before I write out some recipes, I would like to mention a few other products I didn't purchase this time but do plan to when I find recipes I can use them in. I just want to keep my ingredients fresh and who knows how long I'll have these stashed away before I find a suitable recipe. So I will keep in mind the interesting coconut flour, fruit vinegars, lemongrass syrup and bitterless ampalaya for the next time I want to try cooking something new. Another thing I bought was Alamid coffee for my sister who is a coffee afficionado. Alamid is a Civet in English, a nocturnal animal that feeds on coffee cherries among other things. Its producer, Basil Reyes, graciously offered me a cup to taste which led me to buy the small size bottle of roasted beans. It was really very good. Expensive but worth it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Crock of Manure

It seems wherever I go and mention organic farming a discussion on the meaning of organic arises. Yesterday, Sister Rosalie called to ask if she could give my private number to Doris, a member of her foundation, Vibrant Earth, of which I have recently become Vice President. In the process she began to tell me that on her last trip to the provinces she found out that one of the biggest producers of “organic” fertilizer, the Elizaldes, uses chicken manure from their chicken farm. Their chickens are not organic or free-range but are raised the conventional hormone and anti-biotic way. We do not consider their fertilizer organic and would not use it on our organic farms. After talking to Sister Rosalie, I got a call from Doris, she wanted to know if I was interested in buying carbon rice hull from her. Rice hulls are the outer covering of the rice grain and carbon rice hull is rice hulls that have been incinerated and turned to a usable fertilizer. Rice hulls can also be used as mulch in gardens. Our conversation went like this:
I asked if her rice was organically grown and she said it was not.
I told her I plan to use only organic fertilizers in my farm.
She said it was ok to use this fertiilzer because it has been incinerated and all the toxic chemicals are no longer present.
I’m not quite sure about that being scientifically correct but aside from that I told her that I try to promote organic agriculture and therefore cannot use her product because that would be condoning conventional agriculture especially since there is organic fetilizer available.

So ok we ended that topic and naturally moved on to organic standards. Doris grows organic fruits and vegetables and is a member of OPTA (Organic Producers Trade Association). She says that OPTA allows the use of conventionally raised chicken manure on fruit trees because the toxins it may have will not reach the fruit but remain in the trunk of the tree. Needless to say, I was skeptical. Why not use organic fertilizer on everything and she said it was too expensive considering the amount that is used on her farm. Is there a cheap and effective alternative? I must find out…
It is disturbing to know that organic producers may be using so called “organic” fertilizers and then considering themselves organic producers. What then is the standard for produce to be called organic?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

List of local plants

Some plants and/or seeds I will be getting in Los Banos:

Local Fruits & Vegetables:

Papaya - I like the firmer and sweeter orange fleshed one compared to the yellow which tends to get mushy when ripe
Banana, 3 kinds – Latundan (pale orange in color, similar in texture as the African or South American Chiquita banana) ,
Lakatan (pale yellow in color and very creamy in texture), Saba (needs to be cooked to soften, normally
used in cooked desserts or savory dishes)
Pineapple - I have to make sure I get the less fibrous kind...
Pechay (similar in looks and taste to Swiss Chard) - Is it Swiss Chard?
Sayote - can eat both the fruit and leaves which are delicious made into a salad
Malungay - is actually a tree with edible small dark green oval leaves, good with eggs and in soups
Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) - has a bitter but oddly satisfying flavor, good with eggs and mixed with meat dishes
Camote (similar in taste to sweet potato, has cream colored flesh with deep purple veins) - really yummy fried with sugar
or used in bread mmmmmmmm!
Ube - I think this deep purple root is endemic to the Philippines, it is used to make a delicious pasty jam, cake or in ice
cream. I plan to experiment and use it to make bread...
Calamansi - a sour lemony citrus used to make juice and as flavoring in sweet and savory dishes
Pili Nuts - another edible endemic to the Philippines?
Calabasa (Squash)

Beneficial & Ornamental Plants: several varieties of Bamboo, Marigold and other plants I find interesting and aesthetically pleasing. I have to see whats available.

Herbs: Dill, Basil, Coriander, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Tarragon, Sage, Rosemary and other herbs I might find.

It would be nice if I had a book that listed all the local fruits and vegetables. Most of what we find in the groceries were brought over from either the US or Europe. I would definately like to add more of the local varieties in my garden.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Final Plans

I finally met up with Renato, my farm manager, after a 2 week delay. He was stuck in Bicol province waiting for the rains to die down so he can supervise the harvest of crops and come back to Manila. He’s cell phone was out and there was no way to contact eachother for a couple of days. I was beginning to worry about how serious he was taking our project! So, last night, we made the final plans for the garden/farm. We decided to start with local plants as they are readily available. This weekend we go to Los Banos to purchase bamboo plants, flowering plants, ornamental plants, fruit & vegetable seeds and seedlings, butterfly larvae, and chickens. I’m quite excited!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why Organic Farming?

Before I explain, a little on my background… I majored, or rather was majoring but did not finish because of bloody visa problems, in Environmental Studies with a focus on Urban Planning at San Francisco State University. I also have a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. So I am a person very concerned with the state of our environment and at the same time loves food. Which basically adds up to a penchant for the good life. Everyone should be able to live a quality life – fresh air, clean water, healthy and nutritious food. Is that to much to ask for? Apparently it is these days.

Organic farming does not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). We will be using vermiculture fertilizer to prepare the soil for planting and beneficial plants to ward of unwanted insects. After this first addition of fertilizer we will be using our own natural fertilizer or compost made from farm waste, such as banana peel, rotting vegetables, etc., which will be broken down by an enzyme solution invented by Renato. I ordered organic seeds from the US and Canada as there aren’t any available in the Philippines. There are, however, a few organically grown local fruits and vegetables available in the market. I will also be purchasing plants from these farms and private gardeners.

In the meantime, I buy my vegetables from “Market Market!”, a mega-mall located at the Fort. There are three organic food stalls. Together they have almost everything I need to provide for my daily meals and beverages. Rizal Farm’s stall even has organic coffee and hot chocolate! I purchase my organic whole grain rice from several places, one being Greg Doris’ Kalinga Blend, a blend of three different kinds of mountain rice, at the Salcedo Market located in the parking lot in front of Salcedo 1 Building in Salcedo Village. Salcedo Market is open once a week on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. I order organic red rice from my friend Mon who brings it from Nueva Ecija and purple rice (my favorite) from Narda’s in Baguio.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Plot of Land

Hello everyone! I've decided to journal my journey in organic farming and post recipes I come up with using the fresh produce grown on my garden. At the moment my plot of land is full of wild plants. Not for long. In a weeks time, clearing of my 500 sqm plot will take place in order to make way for my organic fruit and vegetable garden. At the moment there are three mango trees, giant sunflowers, bamboo and lots of other grasses covering the entire area. I will be keeping the three mentioned plants and any other beneficial plants we might find. By we I mean Renato, my farm manager. He specializes in organic farming and has a degree in Soil Science. He will be doing the farming and I'll be cooking.

My plot is on an incline with a creek at the bottom, its quite lovely. Because of this we are careful not to strip the land completely leaving it vulnerable to erosion especially during monsoon season. The trees and bamboo are essential in preventing erosion. The bamboo we plan to transplant to the perimeter of the creek and against the property's fence.

Most of what I'll be planting will be gourmet vegetables. This idea came to me out of frustration on the dismal supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in groceries around Manila. I felt I needed more variety.

Here is a sample of what I'll be planting:
4 varieties of sweet peppers
8 varieties of beans
5 varieties of squash
14 varieties of tomatoes
5 varieties of eggplant
5 varieties of potatoes
3 varieties of carrots