August Vegetable of the Month is an Edible Mushroom

PARASOL MUSHROOM or KABUTE

Scientific name: Macrolepiota albuminosa (formerly Agaricus albuminosus or Termitomyces albuminosus)
Family: Agaricaceae (Button Mushroom Family)
Common names: Parasol mushroom, Kabute, Uong, Mamarang

It has been raining non-stop for about a week, and mushrooms have been sprouting like crazy everywhere. So I thought that we’ll digress from featuring green vegetables for just this month, and talk about edible mushrooms in the Philippines. Just to jog your memory, mushrooms belong to a completely different taxonomic kingdom than plants or animals. 😉

There are several kinds of edible mushrooms in the Philippines that can be cultivated, but this one is very rarely, if ever, grown commercially. This is why you’ll never find this in the markets all year round. We’ve only ever obtained this particular type of mushroom by foraging around, and never from the market.

We are lucky enough to have an area in the garden as well as access to vacant lots in the village where mushrooms appear every year during the rainy season. Mushrooms are just one of the lovely things that rains bring about!

Edible mushrooms in the Philippines are usually associated with Chinese dishes, for some reason. I personally love them in soups and omelets. Cook them however you will, they’re packed with fiber, proteins, B Vitamins and minerals!

To encourage growth in the garden, keep an area relatively shaded with trees, allow the fallen branches and leaves to decay instead of sweeping them away. Alternatively, go mushroom-hunting in your vicinity. You’ll usually find this variety growing under the shade of trees in areas that are damp.

Just be careful and make sure that the mushrooms you pick are the edible kind and not the poisonous ones! There are poisonous mushrooms that look similar to this edible one, so it goes without saying that you should do your research first to confirm if what you have is edible or not.

 

June Vegetable of the Month is Bitter Gourd or Ampalaya

BITTER GOURD or AMPALAYA

Scientific Name: Momordica charantia
Family: Cucurbitaceae (Squash Family)

Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) is literally a bitter pill to swallow. But once you get used to its taste, you will even crave its unique flavor and texture. The fruits should be harvested while young and green (they’re not good once they start turning yellow). They’re best stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and garlic (add beaten eggs if you’re not vegan). And don’t forget that the leaves are also edible, and are amazing in munggo (mung bean) soup/stew. This plant is also known for its medicinal uses, and has been marketed as an anti-diabetic. Pregnant women should not consume too much of this vegetable though!

Growing this vine, which is also known as bitter melon, is fairly easy. Just plant seeds directly in soil, not need for special germination treatment. It can even thrive in soils that are relatively not very fertile. It can also be grown as a potted plant, but wherever you plant it, you will need to support it with a trellis or if you prefer, just allow it to creep up the stems of your other plants. It may be grown in shady areas to get large leaves, but for it to flower and fruit, a more sunny side of the garden is needed. Flowers are unisexual, so there are pollen-bearing and fruit bearing flowers. Beware of the pests — the fruits and leaves of this plant are prone to insect attacks. Harvest before the bugs get to them!

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