I got a copy of Flor Tarriela's latest book Weedibles, Weedicinals Plus Edible Flowers and More published by Department of Agriculture (DA)'s Agricultural Training Institute. This is in support of the agency's Plant, Plant, Plant Program – the flagship pandemic recovery response to address long-term food security and prosperity. The book resonated with me as it is strongly aligned with my personal advocacy of sustainability when it comes to food and homemaking.

My takeaway in reading the book is the concept of creating your own "Garden of Life" - or "Hardin ng Buhay" in Tagalog - where you essentially have in your garden two classifications: the first would be for your kitchen, or as the book aptly describes it as weedibles (those that you can eat); and second, your botika garden, which is described as weedicinals (or those that have medicinal properties).

I thought it was an amazing way to classify the many plants and weeds we have, considering DA Secretary William Dar mentioned that with a diversity of 14,000 species, our Philippine flora is said to represent 5-percent of the world's flora.

Damong Maria is known for its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Damong Maria is known for its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties.

In terms of maintenance, there is not much effort needed in taking care of the weedibles and weedicinals as they are technically weeds – or plants that have grown at the wrong place. Weeds grow everywhere and you would have for yourself and your family an added source of ingredients for food and for treating aches and pains. The health benefits, not to mention the ease of access, just cannot be ignored.

In fact, a plant can be both a weedible and a weedicinal, too.

Here are a few examples of weedibles that can comprise your kitchen garden:

1. Borbotak. Called painter's brush weed. Stir fry the leaves and add to your omelettes.

2. Kolitis. Also called amaranth or Chinese spinach. It can be used for dishes like sinigang. Known as an immune booster, it can be prepared and served as tea. It is also rich in vitamins B and C, among others.

3. Pancit Pancitan. Peperomia. We literally discovered this weed growing alongside another plant in the same pot; pancit pancitan is known to treat gout. Use this when you make salad. Also good to top your omelettes with this

4. Takipkuhol. Both a weedible and a weedicinal, takipkuhol (gotu kola) is also known as herb of longevity and a memory enhancer, and can be used for culinary (leaves used for salad or tempura) and medicinal purposes (leaves steeped as tea).

5. Talinum. Jewels of Opar. Also known as Japanese ginseng. We use this in sinigang instead of kangkong. This is rich in vitamin C.

Now here are a few examples of weedicinals for your botika garden:

1. Balbas Pusa. Or cat's whiskers. It helps those with hypertension, high cholesterol and sugar levels. Steep the leaves in hot water and drink as tea.

2. Damong Maria. Chinese honeysuckle. Has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties. Juice of leaves can be used for cuts and wounds.

3. Tawa Tawa. Snake weed. A popular treatment for those with dengue (works all the time). Boil the plant until soft, strain, and drink as tea once cooled.

4. Sambong. Known as a diuretic and can help aid those with kidney issues. In my husband's case, he did not experience any gout attacks as soon as he developed the habit of taking sambong tea in the evening.

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For those who are looking at incorporating more plant-based dishes in their diet, this is also a good place to start.

Our country is rich in natural resources and there are so many ways to eat healthy, sustainably and at a price that does not hurt our pocket. Given what we have, I share the advocacy of the book's author - no Filipino should be hungry.

For those interested, limited copies are available for free at ATI in Diliman, Quezon City.

The author may be reached at [email protected] or follow her at Instagram @kaycalpolugtu and @aplateofbahaykubo.