By Zac B. Sarian
A long time grower of strawberry in Benguet has shifted to growing the true Ashitaba (Angelica keiski) since 2013 for a number of good reasons.
He is Marvin Chagyo, 54, who used to plant strawberry on 7,000 square meters. Now, he is devoting the same area to the production of Ashitaba as a contract grower of Mrs. Adela Ang, who has been popularizing the consumption of Ashitaba because of its many health benefits.
Chagyo said that strawberry is a profitable crop to grow, just as profitable as Ashitaba. However, Ashitaba is easier to cultivate. You plant the Ashitaba seedlings and in less than three months, you can start harvesting the leaves, including the stalks. Harvesting can go on throughout the year. The leaves are big so they are heavy. He is paid according to the weight of the harvest.
In the case of strawberry, he has to spray insecticide to protect the strawberry plants and fruits from pests. But with Ashitaba, he does not spray any pesticide so he is not exposed to poisonous chemicals. Also, strawberry requires meticulous attention: the old leaves have to be pruned and the plots have to be weeded. During harvest time, a lot of people are needed to pick the fruits fast so that these can be delivered as soon as possible to the market because strawberry is very perishable.
Also, strawberry is seasonal. Harvesting usually starts in December and will run through June. During the rainy season, strawberry does not give any income.
In the meantime, as per the suggestion of Mrs. Ang, Marvin can give extra leaves and stems to people in the community who have health problems. The leaves and stalks can be boiled and the water is drunk like tea. This has benefited a lot of people in the community, like Evangeline Obillo, a 47-yearold widow who is growing flowers for sale. She said that she had a severe case of constipation. Sometimes, she had no bowel movements for as long as one week.
Thanks to Ashitaba, she now has daily bowel movements. She says she religiously drinks four cups of the Ashitaba decoction. She boils a couple of fresh leaves and drinks the water in the morning and in the evening.
Maximo Nabus, a 68- year-old mechanic who operates a repair shop, has a different story. He dries the Ashitaba leaves which he makes into tea that he drinks every morning and just before going to sleep in the evening. He also reboils the leaves he used for making tea and uses the water for bathing. He believes that the practice has been responsible for his glowing, healthy skin.
Others who have benefited from Ashitaba in Benguet include Victor Palaci, 71, who has long been a diabetic. He used to be insulin dependent, and then his doctor recommended two tablets of metformin daily. The two tablets proved to be too strong for him as he developed heart palpitations. So the doctor recommended just one tablet a day and Palaci supplemented this by drinking six glasses of Ashitaba tea. He claims he feels very much better now. And he spends less on medicine.
Chester Pucay, 44, a driver of a hospital, claims that drinking Ashitaba tea (boiled leaves) has cured his sinusitis and urinary tract infection (UTI). He also sleeps very soundly now thanks to Ashitaba. And Torres Chagyo is very thankful because his severe psoriasis problem has practically disappeared because of Ashitaba. He takes a bath with the water used for boiling Ashitaba.
Well, Mrs. Adela Ang has gone a long way in popularizing Ashitaba in the Philippines. She has other Ashitaba farms in Silang and Tagaytay for the production of leaves and stalks for processing into tea and powder. The powder could be added to pan de sal, noodles, ice cream, and more.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2016 issue.