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Vegetables of the Philippines

Health Benefits of Philippine Vegetables


Vegetables and fruits are packed with necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits and vegetable contain vital nutrients that will combat miracle wonders of life-threatening diseases and illnesses. Daily intake of vegetables and fruits sustain good health and provide enough resistance for occurring diseases.


According to health research, compelling evidence shows that fruits and vegetables enhance the quality and longevity of your life. You owe it to yourself, meant taking extra care of yourself by eating-well and living-well. Healthy eating choices, is the best reward you can give to yourself. Before I go any further, take note vegetables such as: carrots, potatoes, tomatoe, onions and spring onions are available all-throughout the year in the Philippines. Surprise! cauliflower, brocolli etc. are also available in supermarket.



Malunggay -- Moringga in English ( Malunggay in Tagalog and Kamunggay in Cebuano) Well –documented clinical scientific studies “Malunggay” leaves contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas, more iron than spinach and more vitamin A than carrots, excellent source of protein, iron, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Good source of iron, if you have iron deficiency. Malunggay leaves, serve as an anti aging vegetable.  Malunggay is not just an ordinary leafy green vegetable, but is noted scientifically as a ‘’Miracle Vegetable’’.  Malunggay, wide range of purposes is exceptional cure for stomach-ache, indigestion, energy booster, controls blood pressure, headache, diabetes, arthritis, tumors and ulcers. Doctors advise and recommend, to include malunggay in your daily food consumption.  Asians use malunggay leaves frequently. Malunggay goes well with tanglad (lemon grass) infused into a chicken broth, the tempting aroma, is beyond words, I would say….it is so deliciously inviting.  Filipinos love ‘’malunggay’’, they use them in home-cooked meals such as: chicken soup (chicken tinola or tinolang manok)  mongos soup (mung beans soup) as-well-as fish and vegetable soup. Malunggay grows well in the Philippines, a drought-resistant fast growing vegetable that can withstand harsh weather conditions and grows all year round. Every household in Philippines practically plants malunggay in their yards, some plant it as a border plant. Oh! By the way if foreigners will ask me, as to what or how malunggay taste, well it is quite similar to spinach but slightly milder in taste. Malunggay, use as the official logo of the Food and Nutrition Research of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRDST) in the Philippines. 



Kangkong – in Tagalog, water spinach or glorybind in English, Tangkong in Cebuano (kankon in Japanese, ong choy in China, ung choi in Cantonese Chinese, toongsin tsoi in Mandarin Chinese) Commonly used vegetable in Filipino dishes (generally in Asia) Kangkong, high source in iron, calcium, vitamin B and C. Mild in flavor, all parts of young kangkong are preferred, edible from the shoot (stem) to the leaves. Great for stir fry meat, soup stews (sinigang kangkong) Strip all the leaves off the stem, slice the stem they go in first for a period of 2 to 3 minutes before adding the leaves. Kangkong also used for salad. Blanch or boil kangkong for 5 minutes….drain add vinegar, calamansi, dash of salt & pepper, onion and tomato. 





Repolyo –Cabbage in English. Cabbage, a substantial source of vitamin A, calcium, antioxidants and fiber, reduces the risk of cancer, strengthens nervous system, excellent source of beta-carotene, therefore good for your vision, heals ulcers, reduces heart disease, rheumatism and skin problems. Cabbage, a rich source of vitamin A, B6, B12, C, E, K, thiamin, niacin and folic acid. Cabbage, also a high source in minerals with the likes of iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc, keeps you in upbeat spirit because cabbage provides energy. Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli are of the same vegetable family. Grown for decades, the rapid rise of consumption is staggering. Prioritize, have cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cucumber and tomatoes as salad served for serving trays on parties with dips. Especially the fresh famous coleslaw, I love it. Health conscious consumers realize the high nutritional value of these vegetables. 



Sitaw –Batong in Cebuano, in English, commonly called ‘’String Bean’’ or ‘’Haricots’’ and some people call it ‘’Snap Beans’’. String beans (due to the fact, the fibrous string run all the way down to the green pods seam) Snap Beans (the sound that comes off it, when you ‘’snap’’ the beans in desired sizes for home-cooked meals) Green beans varies in range of sizes ( falls in the same family category of the red kidney beans and black beans ) Yes. The sassy-jazzy- sexy ‘’string beans’’, high source of vitamin A, C, K, iron, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, thiamin, niacin and omega 3. If you are lacking in iron, add beans in your food consumption, also great for menstruating women, pregnant or lactating women. It is advisable to cook beans with care (lose some of its nutrients when over-cooked) as stir-fry, vegetable soup (sinigang in Tagalog, sinangag in Cebuano) Simmering or steaming beans till tender-crisp,  makes them taste good. Beans are available in supermarkets and at your local market near you all-year-round, in Philippines. Choose good quality beans without the blemishes. 


string beans



Pechay – in English, Snow Cabbage (Chinese cabbage) a green leafy vegetable widely used in Asian cuisine. Pechay, is Pak Choy or Bok Choy in Chinese high source of vitamin A, C. Good source potassium and fiber. Pechay, lower the risk of breast and colon cancer. Pechay can be prepared in a range of ways stir-fried, steamed, stuffing, steamed and boiled. Pechay is available all-throughout the year. 

chinese cabbage


Kalabasa – Squash or Pumpkin in English (kalabasa puti and pula in Tagalog, kalbasang puti and puwa in Cebuano) in other words ‘’the red and white squash or pumpkins’’ are in the same family of watermelons and cucumber. Squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene which is vitamin A and high source of vitamin C, B, calcium and iron. According to medical studies, squash flowers contain ‘’lutein’’ that prevents cataract. There are a variety of ways to enjoy a squash dish. Nowadays, squash is not only used for cooking but served in pies and soup in cafes, restaurants etc. Abundant and grown in the Philippines all-throughout the year, thrives well in tropical climate. The increasing demand, makes farmers produce squash in Philippines for commercial sale. Great for cooking like ‘’ginisang kalabasa’’ (stir-fried squash with various vegetables) with lean pork cut into cubes. The delicious mashed-potato-squash dish. From autumn till winter houses in Holland, household create a basket full of squash/pumpkins in various sizes, shapes, colors as a display in kitchen counter tops, terrace, lounge table tops, corner table tops, terrace and banister in the front door entrance of the house. 




Ampalaya –  inTagalog (Paleya in Cebuano) In English it is called Bitter Melon, Bitter Gourd or Balsam Pear.  Bitter Melon known for its health benefits for so many years. Bitter Melon is a member of squash family. Ampalaya, rich in vitamin A, iron, vitamin B1, B2, B3,C, fiber, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Westerners (particularly foreigners who are planning a trip to the Philippines) may not like or not being able to take the bitter taste of ampalaya. In fact, some Filipinos don’t like it, but still eat it because of its valuable healthful benefits. Ampalaya consumption a day or two a week stabilize high-blood pressure and help prevents infection. To lessen bitterness of ampalaya, cut in half and discard fibrous core and seeds out of the flesh. To offset the bitter taste of ampalaya, thinly sliced it and pre-boil it for minutes, drain/sieve, squeezed and wash thoroughly with water….you then cooked it as desired. Ampalaya can be stir-fried (ginisang ampalaya with shrimp or ginisang ampalaya with lean pork cut in bite size cubes.) stuffed or pickled. Consume only a small serving of ampalaya, too much may cause stomach discomfort to some people.  




Talong – Eggplant in English, Aubergine in France (tawong in Cebuano) Eggplant, a smooth-shiny-glossy vegetable (known as nightshades) related to the family vegetable of potato, sweet pepper and tomato. It comes in variety of sizes, shape, and color deep-purple-reddish, green, white and even orange. Eggplant is available throughout the year and varieties slightly differ in taste and texture, they hang from the vines just like tomato. Eggplant--provide fiber, antioxidants, potassium, manganese, vitamin B1, B3 and magnesium. Eggplant is widely used in Asian and Western cuisines. Commonly used in Philippines in vegetable soup (sinigang) stir-fried, pickled (kinilaw) or stuffed eggplant with tomato and cheese. To name a few eggplant dish: Italy’s ‘’melanzane alla parmigiana’’ French “ratatouille’’ Greek ‘’melitzanosalata’’ and variety of eggplant lasagna recipes, stuffed eggplant with your desired ingredients. How about eggplant stuffed with tomato and parmesan cheese? 




Okra –known as the ‘’lady’s fingers’’ called ‘’gumbo’’ in U.S. and called ‘’kingombo’’ in Spanish and Dutch, in French called ‘’gombo or bamya’’ Okra, grows well throughout the year in warm tropical climate, even during harsh weather conditions, a drought-heat tolerant vegetable amongst all vegetables. Okra, at their best and must be harvested while young within days to about a week, longer than a week okra taste fibrous, chewy and woody. Okra, contain vitamin A, B, C, iron, fiber and calcium. Flavor and taste of okra is similar between asparagus and eggplant. In Philippines okra is available in supermarkets fresh produce section and at your local market near you. And for all of us living abroad, okra is available in supermarkets, health food stores and markets. Okra can be boiled, used in stews, soup, stir-fried with other vegetables. Asian cuisines used okra for consistency, to thicken stews and soups. 



Gabi/Ube – Taro in English, a root crop vegetable plant, great in soup dish (sinigang in Tagalog, utan in Cebuano) Gabi, a versatile-vegetable (variety of usage) leaves and stalk (stem) are cooked and consumed, used in vegetable soup, meat and fish dish, also use it for some cake recipes. People in Manila are keen on eating a dish called ‘’laing’’ leaves are cook/prepared in coconut milk. Gabi, provides vitamin A, C and calcium. To top it all, the well-known yummy dessert or snack ‘’ginata-an''  in Tagalog, we call it Cebuano ''binignit’’ combining together cut-up gabi/ube, sweet potato, cooking banana  (sab-a or gardaba) sago with fresh coconut milk and brown sugar ( sweetness according to your taste) Not forgetting the the refreshing “halo-halo special’’ has cooked banana and gabi/ube in it along with other fresh fruits. 





Camote – Sweet Potato in English is a major root crop in the Philippines next to rice, corn, cooking banana and cassava. Camote is rich protein and potassium,  while the yellow flesh variety camote is rich in vitamin A. Camote, keeps your heart healthy therefore prevents  stroke and protects against coronary heart diseases, stomach ulcers and can lessen ‘’gout’’ sufferers. Camote (sweet potato) and sweet potato tops (talbos ng camote) are an excellent remedy for dengue fever. Procedure is easy: boil sweet potato tops (young leaves) or unpeeled sweet potato for 20 to 30 minutes, you then strain the liquid, cool it down and to relieve the pain fast, drink a few cups at a time, you’ll be surprised how fast the pain subsides. Camote provide us health nutrients as well-as medical purposes. Filipinos can relate me regarding the tasty camote cue (fried) and boiled camote for snack. Camote is often used in baking cakes, pies and pudding. 

sweet potato


 Camote tops –Sweet Potato tops (Talbos ng Camote in Tagalog) Filipinos are familiar with the well-known, nutritious edible leaves of sweet potato tops. Sweet potato tops (leaves) contain vitamin A, iron, calcium, protein, magnesium, zinc and manganese, also high source in potassium and excellent source of antioxidants. Sweet potato tops leaves are used for soup and salad. 


camote tops


Alugbati –in English ‘’Malabar Spinach” or vine spinach. Leaves resemble spinach and taste similar to spinach, when cooked slimy and sticky just like okra, leaves, shoots and stem are eaten and used in soup and stews. Alugbati, contain iron, calcium and antioxidants, vitamin A, B and C. Medical research reveals: mixture of alugbati leaf pulp and a bit of butter, can give a cooling effect in redness of skin when burn or scald during cooking.



©Marilyn Ouano Gilsing (