Unique food fares in a unique farm

Agriculture - - Con­tents - BY ZAC B. SAR­IAN

The farm is a five-hectare for­est of tall co­conut trees, fruit trees, and for­est trees, but there are also spa­ces for grow­ing root crops and veg­eta­bles the nat­u­ral farm­ing way, i.e., with­out the use of chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides.

The spe­cialty foods that they serve at For­est Wood in­clude what they call “Plantsado.” This is a con­coc­tion of finely grated root crops that can in­clude var­i­ous pro­por­tions of tugui, taro, ube, yel­low yam, camote, cas­sava, and oth­ers that are lo­cally pro­duced.

To the finely grated root crop are added honey, buko, and mar­garine. The ma­te­ri­als are wrapped in banana leaves then cooked with an old flat iron loaded with burn­ing char­coal. The flat iron is placed atop the wrapped in­gre­di­ents and it takes only about five min­utes to fin­ish the cook­ing, ac­cord­ing to Joel.

The Plantsado goes very well with her­bal teas like gin­ger tea, which is served in unique bam­boo cups. The Plantsado is best eaten right af­ter it is cooked. That way, you re­ally im­bibe the very pleas­ing aroma not only of the cooked root crops but also the singed banana leaves. The Plantsado can be eaten with a fork but some peo­ple, ac­cord­ing

to Joel, en­joy eat­ing the same with their fin­gers.

An­other spe­cial food that they serve to vis­i­tors is what they call Kal­abuko pan­sit. In­stead of tra­di­tional noo­dles, the in­gre­di­ents con­sist of strips of buko, kal­abasa, green pa­paya, mush­room, and an ar­ray of veg­etable “tal­bos” or tips that in­clude pur­ple camote tops, sili, takip kuhol, and kangkong. This is for veg­e­tar­i­ans.

For non-veg­e­tar­i­ans, Kal­abuko pan­sit can in­clude the meat of a na­tive pig that is sea­soned in a so­lu­tion of turmeric ( luyang di­law) and mar­i­nated with basil be­fore it is steamed in bam­boo tubes then used in cook­ing Kal­abuko. This recipe, called Ti­nak­tak, can also be served sep­a­rately for meat eaters.

An­other dish that is unique to For­est Wood is what Joel calls Bolol. It is the meat of a na­tive pig that is mar­i­nated with herbs (basil and rose­mary) then grilled.

At For­est Wood, they also have a unique way of pre­par­ing the ground for plant­ing their veg­eta­bles and other crops. First, they use what Joel calls Mr. Pig Trac­tor. These are ac­tu­ally pigs in por­ta­ble en­clo­sures that are placed in some grassy grounds. They eat

the grass and other weeds, en­rich the soil with their ma­nure and urine, and also cul­ti­vate the soil. Af­ter do­ing their job, they are trans­ferred to the next grassy sec­tion to do the same thing.

There are ac­tu­ally four batches of Mr. Pig Trac­tor do­ing their job at the mo­ment. Once they are fin­ished with their as­sign­ment, the ground is formed into plots for plant­ing veg­eta­bles, herbs, and other crops.

One of the Fra­gos’ fa­vorite prod­ucts is mush­room, which is used in cook­ing their Kal­abuko pan­sit. They have a mush­room house which they call “Kubote.”

They are also in love with bam­boo. They have a col­lec­tion of more than 20 va­ri­eties. One beau­ti­ful and use­ful va­ri­ety is what Joel calls Sun­burst bam­boo. This has small culms that are yel­low, long, and straight. This makes a very dec­o­ra­tive bam­boo for land­scap­ing and the culms are also made into di­viders or blinds. For vine crop farm­ers, the culms could be used for trel­lis­ing in­de­ter­mi­nate toma­toes, am­palaya, pa­tola, cu­cum­ber, sitao, and the like.

The hus­band and wife tan­dem is re­ally in love with na­ture. Joel, a reg­is­tered nurse, and Myrna, an ar­chi­tect, got mar­ried soon af­ter grad­u­a­tion. Not long af­ter mar­riage, Joel be­came an OFW in Eng­land where he worked as the qual­ity con­trol tech­ni­cian of a min­ing com­pany. Myrna, in the mean­time, stayed home and en­gaged in a char­coal busi­ness, put up a sari-sari store, and got into multi-level mar­ket­ing. The in­come from those busi­nesses was not bad but it was not to Myrna’s lik­ing. She wanted a more mean­ing­ful ca­reer.

That’s when she en­gaged in land­scap­ing where she could ex­press her artis­tic tal­ent, which she did by win­ning awards in gar­den shows. Af­ter 12 years abroad, Joel de­cided to quit his job and join Myrna in putting up their dream per­ma­cul­ture farm on a five-hectare for­est area in San Pablo.

They are now en­joy­ing their brand of farm­ing, and in 2013, they de­cided to open their farm to vis­i­tors. So far, they have been vis­ited by stu­dents on “Lak­bay Aral” as well as health­con­scious in­di­vid­u­als. For­eign­ers from at least eight coun­tries have also vis­ited them and en­joyed their unique food and the am­biance of their farm in the for­est.

An in­trigu­ing sign at For­est Wood. Top photo shows a For­est Wood worker hold­ing a big yel­low yam tu­ber used for mak­ing Plantsado.

Myrna Frago serves gin­ger tea in bam­boo cups.

Kal­abuko pancit ready to eat.

For­est Wood chef cook­ing Kal­abuko pancit.

The yummy Plantsado is best eaten with her­bal tea while hot.

ZBS eat­ing Plantsado with other For­est Wood vis­i­tors.

Myrna be­side Sun­burst bam­boo.

Mush­room and fin­ger pep­per.

Joel Frago show­ing a gi­ant patani fruit.

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