Monday, June 27, 2011

Culinary my garden

I started planting only early this year after I came across a weekly organic bazaar in Banilad Town Center. I found what I have been looking for quite a long time so I didn’t thought twice to buy one. Sweet Italian Basil was my first herb. Though a bit pricey, it didn’t matter to me. The plant was already 2 feet high, lush and healthy and was planted in a clay pot. Right now, I let it flower so I can gather seeds for my next supply of basil.
I’m quite sure you will ask: where will I plant? Living in a metro where you pay for every square meters of open space is not a good idea to crowd it with plants. If you happen to live in nearby municipalities where vacant lots are still abundant and “backyard” is still literally a backyard, this hobby is something that will pay off. If you are an urban dweller like me, you are on the same challenge as mine. But whatever it is, hobbyists will always find a way or two just to engage on gardening. More of the tips on how to make most of your space will be discussed on the future posts.
I don’t have an extensive collection of herbs, as I earlier put it, because of space considerations and the availability of the plants. I just grow them one by one in a pot. The potting medium was bought in the hardware (organic compost). It just started with a sweet basil, but now, I also have tarragon, mints, peppermint, turmeric, holy basil, thai basil, Vietnamese coriander, parsley, lemongrass, oregano, chives, and chinese garlic chives.

Sweet Italian Basil, basic ingredient for pastas and salads. According to wikipedia, it was originally came from India, it is best known as culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine. There are other varieties of basil which are known to most Asian countries including the Philippines.

This is Tarragon, a perrenial herb that gives strong "anise" like flavor. Some vinegars are flavored with it. As wikipedia mentions, it is one of the four fine herbs of french cooking.

Peppermint, much stronger than the usual mints. Eating this herb fresh reminds me of chewing "Judge" bubblegum, or "clorets" after meal. It always makes a good "accent" for the taste in salad greens.

Vietnamese Coriander. I am reminded of this when eating at Lemongrass in Ayala Terraces if you will order a vietnamese dish. A friend describes the taste as "murag nakakaon og ipis" (I assume he had rare encounter of eating one hahahaha). I used this herb in Goi Cuon or fresh vietnamese spring rolls, taste is something peppery.

This is Chive, a family of onions. It gives the same aroma and taste as onions. Stalks are like long pointed needles. Wikipedia describes it as the smallest family species of edible onions.

 The picture above is a Chinese Garlic Chive, still a variety of chives but this has flat leaves. Very distinct in its garlicky flavor (hence the name).
Fennel or Dill. Dill or Fennel. Liboga ani oy. Again when it comes to correctly identifying plants with almost the same physical appearance, I'm always pressed hard to tell which is which. Online sources would say that the one on the picture is  a Dill, but the one that is beingsold in BTC has much finer needle-like leaves and labeled as "Dill." I think I need an expert here.

Actually, this was my very first herb. I got it from Leyson's peak, halfway going to Balamban accessing the Trans-Central Highway. That mountain resort boasts of having a number of herbs planted all throughout the area (including fresh strawberries), but that was 2 years ago. When I went there last April 2011, sad to say mao na lang ni ang nahibilin. (Pardon my bisaya, hope I gave it justice.)

Fond of eating pastas in marinara sauce? One of the distinct flavor comes from this herb. I bought this oregano herb in a nursery in Mandaue, fronting the Super Metro Mandaue. A variegated variety of this makes an impressive garden ornament. When we were kids, I still remember the greenish liquid extract would give us a relief from coughs. I never thought this bitter-flavored plant can be used in cooking.

Wonder what makes your Java Rice in deep orange-yellow color? It is because of Turmeric, or Luyang Dilaw, or "duwaw" in local dialect. This belongs to a ginger family, but it has more subtle taste than the regular pale-colored luy-a. You can also differentiate the plant through its leaves; the regular ginger has more pointed and narrow leaves, while turmeric has much wider leaves and looks like small banana plant (this would make a good ornamental centerpiece). It got my attention when were looking for a natural cure for hypertension, as most online resources would point out to this miracle plant (this plant brags a long list of useful medicinal uses). In cooking, the rhizomes are key ingredients for Indian and Persian and Thai dishes such as curries. I always love to eat in Persian Palate in Ayala Terraces (as a restaurant-of-no-choice), and as anybody would expect, all rice dishes comes in attractive yellow color!

I did not own this Thai Basil, as it grows freely in the garden. My Thai neighbors brought the seeds from Thailand, sprinkled in the vacant lot next to my room. This is a staple herb in any Thai cuisine, and I so love this herb! This is a type of sweet basil native to southeast asia. It has identifiable licorice flavor found in sweet basil, however the flavor is much more stable under highor extended cooking temperatures than the sweet one. Thais call this as "bai horapa". My fried rice should be in basil sauce!
Looks familiar? Yes! we call this one "sangeg". I was late to realize this was also a variety of basil. This grows widely in the garden and most Thai friends just chew it fresh. This is also a staple in any thai or vietnamese cuisine. This is Lemon Basil or "bai maeng-lak" in Thailand. This is best to remove unpleasant odors of any fish dishes. It has undertones of lemon in both scent and taste.

This is again a variety of basil, the name is Holy Basil, and according to wikipedia, it is the basil Thais love most. "bai gka-prow" in Thailand, it has smaller, slightly hairy leaves and an aroma the same with that of cloves. It is being worshipped in India, hence the name.


  1. i think what you have there is fennel, long elongated leaves and has a white bulb. dill has finer, shorter leaves, and has green woody stalks. :)

  2. Hi kendi, i think its a dill, it doesnt have a bulb. :)

  3. hi! i happen to stumble upon an article on dill weeds that we can serve in our table, but i don't know what really is a dill in tagalog, can you please tell me what it is called in tagalog? you have a good assortment of herbs, keep it up! more power to you and God bless.
    please kindly reply to me in my e-mail:
    thanks a lot.

    1. Hi,

      Based on my research, DILL has no direct translation in tagalog. I would love to bump with a pinoy botanist or an enthusiast who's focus is on pinoy herbs. Will let you know then.

      Thanks, hope you keep on visiting this site.


  4. hi really have a passion for food..can i ask for some of those herbs??hehehe...

    1. Thanks,

      You too can propagate these herbs if you are interested. Plants are just like humans, it needs time and attention, so if you have these, you can keep an herb garden.

      If I grow some extra herbs, I can give you some.


  5. Hello sir,

    Naa kay rosemary herbs nga matanom?wala pa gyd ko kita dri sa cebu. Kani nalang akong kuwang gyud.




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