BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Throughout the day, there are some instances when we feel a little low on energy or hear our stomachs growling for a little more sustenance. To fulfill the need to munch on something and get a much-needed energy boost, we tend to snack.
Among the many snack options available, peanuts are a healthy choice that many people pick. In the Philippines, peanuts aren’t just served salted or plain in packages. Street vendors and food companies also serve them roasted and in different flavors such as adobo, spicy, or with garlic.
Regardless of how they’re cooked, peanuts are recognized for being rich in protein, fat, and fiber. Although they have a high-fat content, these are known as “good fats” which help lower cholesterol levels.
It is also an excellent source of nutrients such as magnesium, folate, vitamin E, copper, and arginine.
Peanuts are usually grown in areas that receive full sun and loose, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. And unlike most plants, the peanut plant blooms above ground but bears fruit below it.
The requirements seem simple to achieve, inspiring Adolfo C. Babiano, 70, a retired labor arbiter, to grow the legumes in his rooftop garden in Quezon City.
With an estimated area of 70 square meters on his rooftop, he decided to devote certain areas to growing a wide array of plants from ornamentals to vegetables to trees.
His interest in urban gardening began and intensified as he was nearing retirement. Equipped with the knowledge on planting from his grade six subject called Practical Arts, the retired labor arbiter filled their rooftop garden with a wide array of plants.
“I decided to grow peanuts, and other plants for that matter, in containers because we have no ground space save for a rooftop,” Babiano said.
Planting peanuts on a rooftop
According to Babiano, the process of growing peanuts starts with soil and seedling preparation. But since he grows plants on a rooftop garden, Babiano had to ensure that he had the right quality of soil for growing peanuts in.
He started by mixing soil with well-composted chicken manure and compost. Babiano added cocopeat if the soil is compacted to loosen it up.
The chicken manure comes from the chickens that he raises. Aside from its droppings for fertilizer, the chickens also provide Babiano and his family with meat and eggs for consumption.
Next, Babiano arranges several unshelled peanuts in a wet piece of folded cloth that’s placed inside a shallow container that has been drained of excess water. After two days, or after the peanuts have sprouted a root, the retired labor arbiter transfers the peanut plants to pots, one seedling per pot, and waits for them to mature within three months or more.
Babiano checks if the peanuts are fully developed and ready for harvest by digging or pulling one out. A good sign that the peanuts are mature is if they nearly fill their pods. A dark interior in the pod means that the peanuts are overmature, making them less viable for boiling but still suitable for roasting.
Other than full sunlight and loose soil, peanut plants also need to be regularly watered.
“The general rule is to water when the soil appears to be dry, which you can see on the surface or feel with your finger. Overwatering will cause the roots and developing peanuts to rot,” Babiano said.
Growing with his garden
By supplying his peanut plants with the proper requirements, Babiano is successful in growing the legumes that are now being enjoyed by his family.
Yet despite his success in growing peanuts, Babiano admits that he still has a lot to learn when it comes to growing food crops, plants, and trees. This eagerness to learn is something that Babiano wants to impart to those who want to start their gardening journey.
“I can only advise newcomers to learn from experience. In my case, I only plant what we can eat and add a few ornamentals for color. As much as possible, I avoid methods that generate clutter and require much expense,” he said.
Aside from being able to grow food for him and his family to consume, Babiano also enjoys urban gardening because it keeps him busy both physically and mentally.
“Waiting for the spark of life to jumpstart a seed and watching the plants grow to keep me going and hoping for the next day to come,” he said.
The retired labor arbiter found an opportunity to start urban gardening because of the space available on his rooftop. He didn’t let the conditions in the metro stop him from growing food crops, ornamentals, and trees that he and his family can enjoy.