By Vina Medenilla
Filipinos who are familiar with local indigenous veggies are becoming increasingly rare.
Two native crops that shouldn’t be overlooked and should be given more attention are erwad and lagiwey.
While these two veggies are resilient and well-suited to the local growing conditions, only a few are aware that they can be eaten, prepared, or used in many ways. Despite being often identified as stubborn weeds, they provide nutrition and therapeutic benefits to some Filipinos.
Have seeds or flowers of plants ever gotten stuck on your clothing? Well, erwad’s yellow-orange blossoms are known for the same thing.
Botanically known as Bidens pilosa L., erwad or beggartick is a flowering plant with edible young leaves and flowers.
Although it is considered as a weed in many places in the country, erwad is regarded as a vegetable in northern provinces such as Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Abra, and Nueva Vizcaya.
If you want to add an interesting ingredient to your dinengdeng, tinola, sinigang, or salad, add erwad. Rice wine or tapuy can also be flavored with erwad tea, along with other ingredients like chili.
Beyond its culinary uses, erwad has long been used to cleanse kidneys and ease anemia. In Tinoc, Ifugao, erwad, or pullet, serves as a treatment for goiter and wounds.
Weeds, as generally described, are plants in the wrong place at the wrong time, but this isn’t the only way to look at them.
Indian lettuce, locally called lagiwey (Lactuca indica L.), is a weedy vegetable cultivated for cooking and medicinal purposes.
Lagiwey leaves are prolific all year. Consumers of this crop in Abra and Bukidnon say that the rainy season is the best time to harvest their leaves. They can be stewed, sautéed, fried, or served in a salad.
In Abra, it is utilized as a natural cough remedy. An Ivatan community in Bukidnon serves this plant, which they call yayod, to diabetic patients, while the sap is used to treat wounds.
It was also the indigenous people of Batanes during the Marcos era who introduced lagiwey to Bukidnon.
Ivantans classify this plant into two types: cultivated and wild. The former refers to lagiwey plants that are most likely brought over by their ancestors, while the latter thrives in mountains and is believed to be a variety native to Bukidnon.
For the longest time, native vegetables like erwad and lagiwey have been part of the food culture of regions where they are prevalent.
Sadly, younger generations are growing less familiar with these vegetables, which also translates to their possible disappearance over time if not preserved through conservation, food, and culture.
Given this situation, it’s high time to promote, underline their value, and give them the safeguards they need from extinction.
The photos and information above were taken from an online informational material or pamphlet no. 18 titled: ‘WEEDY VEGETABLES,’ from a publication series of the project ‘Documentation of Indigenous Vegetables,’ funded and coordinated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) and the Institute of Crop Science (ICropS), College of Agriculture and Food Science, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).