Foraging in the wild



To forage is to conduct a wide search usually in the wild and I know just the man who does this—Nicolo Aberasturi. Being the gentleman farmer we always look up to for new discoveries, I intently listened to his talk at Madrid Fusion Manila 2016 on “Ark of Taste.”

The students and food enthusiasts who came to listen were in awe as Nicolo gave them samples of foraged greens—pancit-pancitan, spilandis, gotukola, amaranth crossed with kulitis—and he told us to eat them one by one and taste the flavors ranging from citrus to mint to that yellow thing which numbs your tongue –spilandis! In fact, Nicolo says, it is used to treat toothaches up in the mountains.

Every month or so, Nicolo is brought to the uplands in Bukidnon by a Datu (chieftain) who shows him all these wild greens. The chieftain tells himthe uses and what our ancestors, and indigenous people use as medicine. It is a search with no end. And that is what foraging is for people who live with Nature. You do a trial and error to see what could work for pain, for wounds and these trivia and experience is what makes our culture.

My cousin Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan also told me about his magical salad called KKMSS- Kamote(sweet potato), Kangkong (swamp cabbage), Malunggay (MoringaOleifera) Sili and Saluyot. And I quote from FlorTarriela’s article in the recent past:

KKMSS stands for the very ordinary but nutritious leaves of KAMOTE (a rich source of Iron and Calcium), KANGKONG (remove away all the toxin), MALUNGGAY (antioxidant, high in Vitamin A, C, and Calcuim), SILI (takes away water rheumatism) and SALUYOT (anti-stress). How do you make it?

Doc. Jimmy’s KKMSS Salad or Ensaladang Filipina
Ingredients: Leaves of kamote,kangkong, malungggay, sili, saluyot
Procedure: Wash and Dry leaves
Chop leaves
Put in Bowl

Dressing: Mix muscovado sugar and natural vinegar 1:1 or depends on your taste
Optional Garnishment: Pinch of ginger (treatment for colds and flu), turmeric(lowers cholesterol & blood sugar) , onion (anti-inflammatory), nuts (high in protein) (pili, cashew, langka seeds)

Dr.Jimmy makes this salad his everyday fare, and believes you get everything you need for all-around health in this dish.

This is the same reason Nicolo and wife Paula are so into preserving local breeds—even livestock like black pigs and yellow cattle. These are breeds that can survive our climate and can survive without chemical antibiotics, but they forage and they live well.

This is why we like to talk about the Ark of Taste. Not very many people know anymore that we can find almost everything we need in the wild. Our grandfathers would hunt and bring their dogs to forage with them. Or the local medicine man would pound a poultice of malunggayand apply it on wounds or inflammations.

The Ark of Taste preserves not only our fruits and vegetables of yore which are now rarely seen in the markets, but also traditions of cooking and eating—like buroor fermentation. It’s an acquired taste I acquired pretty early in life. Though we are not Pampangos, my mother would serve BurongDalag(mudfish in fermented rice) with fried tilapia or any fried fish and I loved it. Maybe it’s the same reason why my nephew Rommel Juan loves Fermented soybeans or Natto in Japanese cuisine. And which love for I have not yet acquired. My mother also made BurongTalangka which I also skipped at the dining table. And guess what, health experts says we need a little fermented food for the macrobiotics and to maintain our flora in the gut. I just loved eating it as the flavors really become a party in the mouth.

Even achara or pickled vegetables can be in Ark of Taste and with foraged small cucumbers, too. Or pickled radish which smokes up a bad smell when you open a bottle (who cut the cheese?!). So what we got used to in our backyard gardens (I used to pick Talinum for our chickens, not knowing I could eat it ,too) as well as what is in the real wild like what Nicolo finds are all good for us. And we must come up with our own version of KKMSS or Local Mesclun soon.

Walk among the trees like dogs often do when released in the wild. I am sure you will find one wild berry, one wild plant which is good for you. But get tips from the community who lives there. Because while food is medicine, medicines can also be poison. So take care, but go wild.

And please help us find species and traditions for Ark of Taste. That way, our childhood memories of eating and foraging can also be relived by today’s youth and the generations to come. Log on to for more information or email us at

(Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Antipolo and Iloilo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at


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