Malunggay, kalunay at iba pang gulay

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

I am sure you know a lot about gulay or vegetables but there is also a lot of misinformation about these works of our Creator. Have you ever heard somebody creating a vegetable? No, not even the most brilliant scientist can. Only God can make vegetables or any plant for that matter and apparently He created all of them since the beginning of time as we don’t see any new vegetable springing out from the ground. Buti na lang, otherwise it would be scary.
And isn’t it just amazing that these vegetables are able to reproduce by themselves and perpetuate themselves. Look at the kalunay, we don’t plant them but even if we have harvested them and uprooted them, they will always come back in a while. When we were living in the All Saints compound in Bontoc, we had the privilege of gathering fresh saluyot shoots growing in the church compound. We could gather enough any day this rainy season. The plants would dry up in summer but would come back with a vengeance by the time it rains. No effort!
What about puket? (also called ladladking in Bontoc, burburtak in Kalinga and Ilokano and Spanish needles in English.) One time in a barangay visit in Barlig, we passed by an um-a with a thick cover of young puket plants, about 5 inches tall, and we had so much fun gathering the tops that we put on our flashlights so we could get more (it was dusk). We had a super delicious supper of rice and ginisang puket, with just a little lard and salt added. No ginisa mix, mind you.
What about malunggay? It’s in your neighbor’s backyard or if you are in lowland Philippines, it is by the highway. You won’t miss it. It will spring out leaves even without you looking. And by the time you look at it again, it has pods! Truly amazing. Not like pigs and chickens. We have to feed them at least two times a day otherwise the pigs will wake up the whole neighborhood in the middle of the night. Kababain. Or worse, they will jump out their pens and gobble up all your flowers, este, ange pala. The chickens are better, as long as they are the native variety. They just eat the pechay and leave your ange. But try the Sassoo. Either you’ll never want to eat fried chicken again or you’ll gobble up every fried chicken you see. They can evoke such strong emotions as they will eat even your prized flower. I don’t have Sassoo but I know some who raised them but now no more.
Malunggay is just so prolific, shooting out so many leaves that even if the whole neighborhood ate malunggay, it will not be kalbo. And if you just air dry the leaves, they will not become brown or yellow but retain the same color and will easily crush under your fingers. What my friend, Manang Puring Canisi, does is just crush the dried malunggay leaves with her fingers, place these in a bottle and spoon it out as needed, mix the powder with their rice, with the bukel or with eggs. Then her apos are able to eat malunggay. You can keep this powdered malunggay in the ref and it will stay for months. But, of course, fresh is still best.
There is such an abundance of these green leafy vegetables all around us, nobody should be saying they are not eating vegetables because there is none or that they have no money. Why do you think our God gave us so much? I will give you more than one reason why (please email your answers to ZigZag Weekly):
To provide green color for Mother Earth
To give beauty to the surroundings.
To give variety to nature, so that we see not only pine trees but these other plants as well, so our curiosity is maintained even to senior high and retirement.
To provide enough food for animals and people.
Yes, these green leafy vegetables are given to us also for food or perhaps mainly for food. Let us see what the Food and Nutrition Composition Tables tell us. Just for now, we will compare three free vegetables, malunggay, saluyot and kalunay or kulitis and one market-bought vegetable which is cabbage. I will just copy their content of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and calcium:
Malunggay leaves, boiled 470 micrograms
Saluyot leaves, boiled 494 micrograms
Kalunay (spineless) leaves, boiled 833 micrograms
Cabbage leaves, boiled 4 micrograms
Malunggay leaves, boiled 53 milligrams
Saluyot leaves, boiled 23 milligrams
Kalunay (spineless) leaves, boiled 64 milligrams
Cabbage leaves, boiled 15 milligrams
Malunggay leaves, boiled 29 milligrams
Saluyot leaves, boiled 50 milligrams
Kalunay (spineless) leaves, boiled 314 milligrams
Cabbage leaves, boiled 34 milligrams
Wow, look at all those goodness packed in these “ro-ot” that we just give to the pigs. Look at the calcium content of kalunay! Beats cabbage in all 3 counts. No wonder our grandparents were so healthy, eating only what Mother Nature provided.
So I was puzzled when somebody asked me that she was advised not to eat green leafy vegetables as these will make her blood thick or malapot. By golly, how outrageous! Trust God, He will not give us something that will endanger our health. These dark green leafy vegetables contain a lot of Vitamin K also which we need so that when we are injured, we don’t bleed to death because the blood clots immediately. The problem comes about when you are taking anti-clotting drugs or anti-coagulants like warfarin. These anti-clotting drugs are prescribed in rare conditions like deep vein thrombosis or after a heart-valve surgery. In these situations when the patient is taking warfarin, intake of green vegetables may have to be regulated. Well, who is taking warfarin or other anti-coagulants here in the Cordillera, here in the Asia? Very rare. So trust our Loving God, if you are not one of those rare individuals, go ahead and eat those green leaves.***
“As for God, his way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.” 2 Samuel 22:31

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