BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Many Filipinos are familiar with pandan (Pandanus tectorius) because it’s a key ingredient in a popular local dessert known as buko pandan. Pandan is also used in savory dishes as a garnish because it adds an alluring aroma. Some even add it to their rice to make it more aromatic and taste richer. But aside from being well-loved as an ingredient in cooking, pandan is also preferred by gardeners.
Pandan is also known as screw pine and is native to Southeast Asia. It can grow up to two meters tall and has slender evergreen leaves that grow 1.5 meters long and three to five centimeters wide. The plant is also very hardy and has requirements that gardeners can meet easily.
One of the basic requirements that pandan plants need to grow is the ideal type of soil. It thrives best in rich and relatively moist soil. Gardeners can choose whether to plant them directly in the soil or pots. If grown in pots, it’s best to use pots that can contain a minimum of 20 liters. Pandan plants can grow big and they need enough space for their roots to develop so they can get more nutrients that they need to flourish.
Although gardeners grow pandan in pots because of the lack of space, the plants grow better when planted directly to the soil. But if they’re given fertilizer, such as compost or natural inputs, once or twice a month, the plants become productive.
Pandan plants also thrive best under full sunlight, but if the plants are grown in pots, it’s best not to plant them under scorching heat and locate them in a partly shaded area.
Since they’re hardy, pandan plants love moisture and can tolerate wet soil. The plants also don’t mind getting waterlogged during the rainy season.
The plants are also easy to propagate. An offshoot from a pandan plant with its roots still intact can be detached and planted on the moist ground or in a pot with good drainage. Gardeners may also try keeping cuttings in water until the roots sprout before planting them in the ground.
A beneficial medicine
Other than being a great addition to many dishes both savory and sweet, pandan plants are also recognized for their health benefits. Many gardeners grow pandan leaves because of these same reasons.
Although modern medicine is just realizing the plant’s medicinal properties now, countries in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines have known about them for centuries.
Initial research identified that pandan has several important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Traditional medicine notes that pandan is effective in pain relief, particularly arthritis and joint pain. Research shows that oils made from pandan extract are rich in phytochemicals known to remedy the symptoms of arthritis. The same properties can also help ease headaches and earaches.
Pandan plants are also known to prevent heart disease, treat minor burns, and even control blood sugar.
So the next time you choose to eat buko pandan or add a pandan leaf to your meal or rice, consider that these plants aren’t just for culinary or ornamental purposes but they’re also useful as medicine which many before us came to know.
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