Sunday, July 5, 2009

Transplants: Batanes Gabi and Mystery Stuff

Our web guy Omar's family is from the Ivatan ethnic group. Though he didn't grow up in beautiful Batanes, his family goes back and forth between the area.

We were meeting over crepes one day and we got to talking about gabi or taro, which is called sudi in their parts. Having what is one of the most windy, stormy and unwelcoming position on our archipelago, Ivatans traditionally used less vulnerable underground tubers such as yams and taro as their staple food. Both visitors and natives attest to a characteristically bland diet, one of the hazards of difficult terrains. (Check out this interesting article by Mol Fernandez by Batanes food in the Inquirer.)

I expressed intrigue over the Batanes gabi, which Omar said had more narrow leaves, probably for protection against the tearing that the large ones are likely to experience from the wind. Furthermore, they are supposed to taste better. Omar recounted buying a "regular" gabi from the grocery and testing it by cooking a Batanes variety at the same time, and by all counts, his native root crop was superior.

Omar so kindly requested his parents to bring home some plantable specimens, which were intercepted at the airport, or something like that! But I saw him last week and he handed me some that his cousin brought back, which were composed of the stems, and a portion of the tuber. I left it in my bag for a few days due to something hectic, and when I removed it, roots were growing quite encouragingly.

So I planted them in last night when I was making Oakley (dog) pee in the garden, and I can't wait to see how the leaves look, and better, how they taste (I actually have a book on Batanes plants, but I lent it to someone.). I put them in pots first until I figure out where the best place to plant them is.

I've also taken a bunch of baby trees from the side of the road. One of them is hopefully a little version of the berry tree (bignay) that was beside it. They are several different ones, none of which I am familiar with. Sometimes that's part of the fun, right? There is a tall dill snapped off from someone's house, which shall be poked into a random part of the garden.

(It's raining pretty good now.)


nutart said...

we have a nice Mindoro variety of gabi here too. I do not have to dry it like the usual gabi bought elsewhere. No itch and has a slight sweetness. So, I usually cook a heft portions and use it for pasta and pizza! The gabi has a small black dot in the middle. Has the Batanes gabi the same?

Bea said...

Do you mean that the tuber has a black dot? I would be very interested in that Mindoro gabi. Sounds like an awesome thing to have growing.

Our gabi at home is pretty itchy-- the one I've harvested so far, at least.

nutart said...

hallo, Bea! sorry for the late reply. This gabi has a leaf with a black dot in the middle instead of the usual white one. That is how we identify the non-itchy variety from the rest. I have also planted the usual itchy type for a specific type of laing.

Bea said...

I'm not sure about the dot you are talking about.. is it the spot where all the "veins" converge? Oh man. Can you spare a tuber or two if you come to Manila? Would really like to propagate that..

PaLa said...

interesting.. here in India we will get Gabi which grows in trees like orchids and its so tastier, without itching

Bea said...

PaLa, please please please link me to this tree-dwelling gabi! Sounds fantastic

nutart said...

hi Bea! I seldom come to manila but will inform you when I coordinate :-)

PaLa said...

I do not have any pictures of this yet. But in my hometown they prepared dishes with this. I will make sure to get one picture of the same when i visit my hometown next time.