Posts Tagged ‘heirloom’

Ancient Adlai: an answer to Food Security

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We’re running short of rice. But our country also has an alternative grain. This is the tropical and indigenous ADLAI. It is also called “Job’s Tears.” It’s a versatile grain. Our ancestors cultivated this ancient grain as a staple. The aborigines of Mindanao, considered as the first inhabitants of Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, have been growing adlai as staple food in the highlands, the same way those in the lowland eat rice. The use of adlai as a staple though has diminished over time.

Adlai grows like grass. You can plant it anywhere and it thrives well despite a harsh climate. After harvesting, Adlai continues to bear grains. When you cut its stalk, a panicle appears again. It is also tolerant to pests and diseases. Farmers can harvest 5 to 6 times a year!

 

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Adlai has been included in DA’s food-security blueprint. It is also part of the Slow Food International Ark of Taste. The grits can also be ground into flour. It can also be made into crackers, rice cake and cookies. It also has 3x more calories and 6x more protein than rice and is regarded as a cure for diabetes. We should learn to eat this indigenous grain like we eat rice.

We grow two varieties: halayhay and Nomiarc dwarf.  We’re saving the seeds of this indigenous cereal and growing more in our farm. There could be enough seeds for everyone. Not only is it a food staple, but we use it as a windbreak and fence, in companion cropping, and especially as part of our ecological pest control.

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iHola Patola!

The way to the every man’s heart is through the pleasure of his stomach. And just this weekend, our native and indigenous fruits, flowers and vegetables, bearing with it a distinct Filipino tradition, won quite a number of hearts.

Recovering Tradition

Our deepest sense of identity lies in our food. A fistful of sampaloc in our soup, a nip of sili in patis, even a whiff of vinegar rising from a simmering Adobo, these carry snippets of memory, a time, and a place. Except that we have forgotten a handful of our flavors, have chosen to import grapes and Gruyere, or now fancy that a banquet is only a banquet when there’s a carving of imported roast beef. And so we pressure our farmers to grow temperate plum tomatoes or chunky lettuce heads, and then snub the lean and mean Southern Yellow cow. Our Ligaw cherry tomatoes seem puny and unworthy of a salad and our cows? Well, “tough” luck.

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But this weekend offered hope in a platter. Suddenly, the chefs only fancied local produce. Suddenly, consumers were getting all worked up on the Pancit Pancitan growing in their garden. And suddenly, the small family farmer, the piaya artisan, even the Manong who traditionally concocts sinamak, took center stage. It was an entire weekend of haute cuisine and there we were, exchanging stories about seed and grain, and the food gardens and kitchens of our grandmothers.

More than the food porn, the moving feasts, and the parade of ogle-worthy chefs, Madrid Fusion Manila opened our eyes (and our bellies) to new gastronomy: one that was based on biodiversity; on reviving local tradition; and on rediscovering our native, indigenous and once-loved fruits, flowers and vegetables.

National Treasures

The spotlight was on the unsung Sua and the stony Tabon Tabon, as chefs pinched and smelled, grated and squeezed, knocked and cracked open the secret ingredients for Mindanao’s killer kinilaw.


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And then there was our flamboyant grain. Foreigners and Filipinos were gushing over the Igorot black rice from the uplands, where they still flood 2000-year old rice paddies and thresh the grain with their hands. The colors were ravishing: dark and multi-faceted. The flavor was nutty. I had to write “Precious sample. Please do not steal,” as these grains were only available six months in a year. Though once I gave in and went home to feast on Pata Negra. as I finally bartered our precious grains for the Espanols’ precious tapa, 2 for 2.

And they were wild about our wild flowers too: hibiscus, pigeon pea (kadios), the Butterfly Blue pea, and even the wild berries we had just foraged off our garden. There was a quite a buzz about our “Buzz Buttons,” and I’d notice one guy bring back one, two, and a whole enchilada to sample the buzzing of the buttons on their tongues.

Then there’s the Adlai, the chefs’ manna from heaven and I believe an answer to our food sovereignty 10360456_1066532416710019_4428287769840092154_nand security. This ancient grain has been cultivated for centuries by the indigenous people of Mindanao- the Talaandigs and the Bagobos. Aptly named as Job’s Tears, the grains are tear-shaped, with a texture similar to risotto or quinoa. I munched my way through lunch with Adlai croquettes and had a bite too many of the Black Heritage pork belly over Adlai.

Shorter Chain a.k.a. Farm to Fork

Today’s cliché in the culinary world is “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork.” I often gripe about the injustice or the charade, because often it still is the trader that gets the food to everyone’s table. But this gastronomy weekend gives us grounds for hope. Hope for local farmers and small family farms: for those without the trucks and the forklifts; for those who choose to grow food enough for only a few baskets; for those who harvest and plant their own seeds; for those who choose to work the land as their ancestors; and for those who take pride and joy in keeping the earth. Perhaps now or a few years hence, they won’t have to sell short their treasures to the trader at the farm gate. They won’t have to trade their bounty for peanuts. And because chefs and consumers now have a heart for the unsung Sua, the lean Southern Yellow cow, the tear-shaped Adlai, and the multicoloured rice, our farmers won’t give up tradition, and a bounty of national treasures can stay at the table.

Open Pollinated or Heirloom Seeds: Now Available

Open-Pollinated, from True Seed. Open pollinated means the plants are pollinated naturally, by insects, birds, the wind. Plants that grow from open pollinated seeds will give you seeds that will again produce new generations of the same plants. These seeds are untreated and free of pesticides.  They are also not genetically-modified.

An heirloom seed is one that has been passed down from generation to generation, usually for over 50 years.

We are making available these seeds so you can plant and sow them, save seeds and hopefully, grow them so we can keep seeding the planet.

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Seed Bank

“Seeds are more valuable than guns and bullets. –Lucinda Bailey a.k.a. The Seed Lady”

She might be right. Whether it be war or a disaster, seeds may be more valuable than guns and bullets. You can feed your family with seeds you have sown, or with a small patch of vegetables nearby. I still remember the last calamity. Entire communities were going hungry, cut off from the rest of the world. What if they had a homestead, or a community garden nearby?

We ought to start saving seeds. Call it survival packets.

Cherry TomatoSeed saving is an age-old practice. Traditionally, farmers would select the most robust and disease-resistant plants and then save the seeds during a season. With the advent of hybrid seeds however, farmers have stopped the practice of saving their own seeds. This is because seeds harvested from hybrid plants produce seedlings that are unlike and inferior to the parent seed. Also, most of the seeds you purchase are treated with fungicides.

Our small farm has started a seed bank. (Biodynamic practices require the use of untreated seed. One way to ensure that seeds are not treated is by saving the seeds yourself.) We bank on heirloom seeds that are open pollinated. These are seeds that have been handed down and successfully cultivated for generations. A vegetable variety can be considered an heirloom once it has been cultivated for over fifty years. Heirlooms have a different flavor. We have heirloom seeds for tomatoes, eggplant, and some varieties of corn. We even have seeds for purple corn, a locally adapted variety that we got from individual farmers. Heirloom seeds reward us with better tasting produce. Unlike the hybrid varieties, heirlooms can be saved and replanted every year. (Hybrid varieties require planting new seeds every year.) Additionally, heirloom seeds adapt to the location over time and what you have are resilient seeds that will grow abundantly where you are. They are more resistant to disease or to harsh weather.

Heirlooms

We’re looking to save more and more varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs. We’re trying to find and collect heirloom varieties and then grow these on site. And then we collect seeds when they are fully ripe and dry.  Easy seeds to collect are from tomatoes and beans. As our climate becomes more erratic, seeds that have been passed down, adapted to our soil, and grown resilient over time, will thrive and produce better crops.

Saving seeds gives us the means to grow our own food. It is the key to food sovereignty because you know how to get food and exactly where it comes from.  A huge chunk of the seed market is already controlled by big companies like Monsanto and Bayer.  These seeds are treated with pesticides, herbicides or are even genetically-modified. If you are able to save your own heirloom, local, open pollinated variety seeds, you are able to replant and regrow them every year, without being dependent on the big companies that patent and control hybrid varieties.