Thursday, June 28, 2012

Natural Toxins in Food Plants

Natural Toxins in Food Plants
Dr Abe V Rotor

Arusip or lato is the most popular sea vegetable in the market.  Too much intake may cause dizziness and may have sedative effect to some. This is traced to a substance called caulerpin, named after its genus Caulerpa. The species shown is Caulerpa racemosa.  It is served fresh with sliced ripe tomato and onion.  

Food contains natural chemicals that are essential for growth and health which include carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and vitamins. But some foods contain potentially harmful natural toxins. Here are some common plants that carry natural toxins.

• Number one in the list is cassava (Manihot utilissima) yields natural cyanic acid mainly in the bark.
1. Crop should be harvested in about 6 months. Over mature tubers contain more of the toxin.
2. Avoid cassava growing along fences and borders; they are likely there for a long time.
3. Choose tubers that are freshly harvested, especially when buying in the market.
4. Remove the entire bark, and wash the tuber thoroughly. Cut into pieces and boil.
5. When the pot starts to boil, remove the cover. This allows the cyanogas to escape.
6. Well cooked cassava is generally safe, but exercise moderation especially among children.
7. Note that there are varieties of cassava which have higher cyanic acid content. Your local agriculturist and the old folks know best.

• Potato (Solanum tuberosum) contains natural toxins called glycoalkaloids The levels are usually low but higher levels are found in potato sprouts, and the peels of potato. These natural toxins are produced by the plant to counteract pests and pathogens, and stress fro ultraviolet and injury. Because glycoalkaloids are not destroyed by cooking, these are the things to do.

1. Don’t eat sprouted potato.
2. Remove any damaged part of the tuber.
3. Don’t eat cooked potatoes that still taste bitter.
4. If you come across a green potato crisp, it’s best not to eat it.
5. Store potatoes in a dark, cool and dry place.
6. Note that Solanum tuberosum belongs to the same family as tobacco – Solanaceae.

• Seeds of apples and pears, and the stony pit or kernel of apricot and peaches contain a naturally occurring substance called amygdalin. Amygdalin can turn into hydrogen cyanide in the stomach causing discomfort or illnesses. It can sometimes be fatal.


Bamboo shoots (labong) contains a certain amount of cyanic acid, similar to that in cassava. Cook well with the pot open to allow the gas to escape.

  • Nicotine in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is among the most poisonous substances in nature. Extract of the poison from a single stick of cigarette can instantaneously kill a person when injected into the bloodstream. Smokers die slowly of nicotine, one of the top ten causes of death in modern society, early death notwithstanding heobromin in cacao (Theobroma cacao)
  • Caffeine in coffee (Coffea spp.)
  • Capsicin in red pepper
  • Ricinin in castor bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Caulerphin in lato or ar-arusip (Caulerpha racemosa)
  • Aflatoxin is a substance produced by a fungus, Aspergillus flavus, that grows on harvested crops like corn, rice and copra that are not properly dried and stored. Aflatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver and other related ailments. ~

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Banana leaves make the most practical food wrapper.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Imagine if there were no banana leaves to make these favorite delicacies:  suman, tupig, bucayo, bibingka, patupat, puto, tinubong, biko-biko, and the like.  We would be missing their characteristic flavor and aroma, and their indigenous trade mark.  So with a lot of recipes like paksiw na isda, lechon, and rice cooked with banana leaves lining.  Banana leaves have natural wax coating which aid in keeping the taste and aroma of food, while protecting it from harmful microbes.

Banana leaves as wrapper of tamales.

In the elementary, we used banana leaves as floor polish.  The wax coating makes wooden floors as shiny as any commercial floor wax sans the smell of turpentine. Banana leaves when wilted under fire exude a pleasant smell.  When ironing clothes use banana leaves on the iron tray. It makes ironing cleaner and smoother, and it imparts a pleasant, clean smell to clothes and fabric. 

This is how to prepare banana leaf wrapper. 

1. Select the wild seeded variety (botolan or balayang Ilk.) and the tall saba variety.  Other varieties may also be used.  

2. Get the newly mature leaves. Leave half of the leaf to allow plant to recover. Regulate the harvesting of young leaves as this will affect the productivity of the plant.   

3. Wilt the gathered leaves by passing singeing the leaves over fire or live charcoal until they are limp and oily. Avoid smoky flame as this will discolor the leaves and impart a smoky smell (napanu-os).  

4. Wipe both sides of the leaves with clean soft cloth until they are glossy and clean. 

5. Cut wilted leaves with desired size, shape and design. Arrange to enhance presentation and native ambiance. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Senile Mango Trees

Abe V Rotor

Century plus mango trees, San Luis, Batangas, 1985

Twice the lifetime of man, three generations span,
these pioneer  trees grew sans plan,
but providence - until the emergence of modern man,
cleared forests to farmland to urban.

And soon their genes decline, and they'll be gone,
and new varieties are up to come:
dwarf and tame, their fruits in golden, red to tan,
engineered by the genius of man.    

Nature needs no genius, as long as there's the sun,
the elements, not even a Green Thumb;
for millions and millions of years in that great span
she has managed well without man.  

Goodbye to these old sentinels as they are known,
dying gradually season after season,
dying with Mother Earth in waste and greedy boon,
prelude to man's following soon. ~

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Converse with Verse

                                                             Papillo butterfly
Abe V Rotor

1.Ode to a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)
My pet, in a sudden turnabout
went wild, its good nature gone!
This weird creature was born out
of the genius and madness of man.

2. It doesn't matter if our planet is green or blue
from outer space or from a hungry soul
living on a morsel, holding an empty bowl,
while images of bounty are virtually true.

3. Corrupting is civilization to mankind;
better was life the Noble Savage lived
in the Garden of Eden we've long envied -
sans want, sans war, sans evil of any kind.

4. All you give your cow and sheep
is an wide green, green meadow
away from your watch and shadow;
content they are - and your sleep.

5. Ask Ceres or the Mightiest of all,
if Nature keeps herself better if we depart,
with her housekeeping and her art -
Was Paradise redeemed after the Fall?

6. The night is full of awe and wonder,
but how many stars do my poor eyes miss?
Yet my mind is set to explore and wander
in search beyond silence true peace.

7. the Drummer Boy to his master's will
marched with the flag behind him;
the flag drops, yet he, drumming still
fell, knowing only the battle hymn.

8. Youth, sweet memories you cherish -
whether the path you took is bright
or dark, or faded in the mist -
matters not in the end, if all's right.

9. To change our ways, hold your peace;
in his dungeon Gandhi prayed at ease;
bowed on a loom he wove the cloth
from the naked, the flag and his oath.

10. Truth we seek, its bulk lies under;
iceberg, it's tip not the real danger;
mum we all are, inside brews anger,
deafening silence sets as asunder.

11. The valley is still, the fog thick and gray;
many a dream is born and gone astray;
once a beacon now ringed with light
where once a moth died in a noble fight.

12. The sail must catch the wind
like a bird; the boat glides free,
for nothing is more fearful
than doldrums in the sea.

13. Lemonade is sweet
even without tasting it,
sans test or any gadget;
seeds float, they rarely sink.

14. The spider protects her brood in tempest,
shepherds her tiny ones from the nest.
Ask Charles Darwin the explanation,
and Robert Bruce the exclamation.

15. Whisper of summer rain
soothes a longing pain
sending a chord fresh and cool
that hums through the soul.

16. Keener the senses are at the end,
deeper kinship lies at the bend;
everyone a friend after the Fall,
the past we bid, welcome to all.

17. Life comes from colors, colors in light,
light from the sun, light to the plant,
plant to animal, whale or the ant -
and life goes on throughout the night.

18. On the Rice Terraces where I stand,
golden are the grains in the setting sun;
on the Great Wall where I walk back in time
roars a dragon amid a mournful chime.
~ ~ ~

Monday, June 4, 2012

Evolution of Faith

Dr Abe V Rotor

                                         Neo-Gothic church, ParaƱaque

Move over Baroque, once bastion of the ancient
world, evolved from the underground and grassy hut,
into mighty fort for war and worship - a kingdom,
until Gothic took its place - ah, freedom!

Soaring into Heaven, scaled not by walls or stairs
but by spires rising like swords piercing the blue sky -
until smog hid its view, and took away its purity,
no longer a rod to fear, pointing at eternity.

High rise buried Baroque and Gothic, with billboards
around; Gregorian chant turned to rock and pop,
in time passing, not by the clock but by the car,
and space a catacomb of concrete and steel bar.

Make way for the Messiah, make haste, we are told;
but who would he or she be? Of what race and tongue?
manger we no longer find, find the star by the Google chart;
does faith make any difference in science and art?

The world did not really change, but we - we did.
Creation, we're but a part - never the Creator, forbid. ~