The “Hemp” Vegetable
By Apolinario Villalobos
The “hemp” vegetable is popularly known in the Philippines as “saluyot” among the Tagalogs and “tagabang” among the Visayans. I swear to its preventive values against diabetes. For several years now that I have been eating plenty of the vegetable the sugar in my blood has been consistently maintained in its normal level. The fibers of the vegetable also make it easy for me to move my bowels.
Foremost reason why many Filipinos do not want to eat the vegetable is its slimy broth that results when cooked. The remedy is by adding a little vinegar or several drops of lemon or kalamansi, as the acidity prevents the juice of the vegetable to become slimy.
There is a big market for the vegetable, especially, in Japan. Big tracks of land are planted with saluyot for its leaves that are processed for the juice that is mixed with flavors to become a delightful medicinal bottled drink, just like the aloe vera juice.
The vegetable can be cooked simply as “paksiw” in which a little vinegar and slices of ginger are added, the way “fish paksiw” is cooked. It can also be stir-fried and flavored with canned sardines, flaked smoked fish, or just tomatoes and onions. Other optional culinary use of the vegetable are:
- Sauce thickener for kare-kare
- Extender for the Visayan “laswa” and “law-uy” dishes
- Important ingredient for the veggie combo that includes thin slivers of bamboo shoots, corn, okra, fresh shrimp or crab and cooked optionally in coconut milk
- Essential ingredient for the “pinakbet” and “dinengdeng”
- Steamed and dipped in fish sauce it becomes appetizer best eaten with fried or grilled fish or fried dried fish.
The vegetable is of various varieties with the most popular being the short one, barely two feet in height and widely sold in the local market. But left to grow further, it could reach the height of a shrub. In the Middle East, it is popularly used to thicken the sauce of chicken casserole.
Hemp is the generic name of the vegetable because a sturdy variety is being used in making “hemp rope” characterized by twined strong fibers, akin to the “abaca hemp”, the source of which is related to banana plant.
With the onslaught of diabetes today due to the proliferation of unhealthy western foods, simply called “junk food”, and which is considered as harbinger of other diseases, my advice is the inclusion of the vegetable in the daily diet. Forget the slimy juice…just think of it as another kind of medicine, some of which are even bitter. One has a choice between the cheap prevention from the lowly “saluyot” or the development of the dreadful diabetes that could result to other diseases resulting further, to the devastation of budget. Remember: prevention is better than cure.