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!