Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bringing Back Biotechnology to the Village and Household


Dr Abe V Rotor
Home-made mineral water - ordinary drinking water treated with malunggay seeds.

Make your own vinegar from fruits - and lumpia and okoy that go with it

Abe V Rotor

1. Make your own “mineral water” with malunggay seeds.

Why spend for mineral water when you can make one right in your home? With all the empty plastic bottles around, you can prepare safe drinking water just by adding crushed seed of malunggay (Moringa oleifera).

This is what you can do. Fill up a liter size bottle (family size softdrink) with water coming from the tap, or if you are in the province, a deep well or spring. Add two malunggay seeds crushed by hand. Allow the setup to settle for two to three hours or until the sediments have settled down. Slowly transfer the filtrate to another bottle for immediate or future use.

Scientists found out that malunggay seeds directly kill bacteria and coagulate suspended particles, slowing down Brownian Movement (constant movement of particulates in liquid medium, colliding with one another and against the walls of the container). Malunggay also impart a refreshing taste to the drinking water. Try it.

2. Pasteurization, the old folks’ way

Farmers immerse and clean the seeds of many field and garden crops in warm water (around 60 degrees Celsius) before planting them. On closer examination, this traditional practice kills harmful bacteria (e.g. Pseudomonas solanacerum) and fungi (e.g. Pythium debaryanum) following the principle of pasteurization, the same as in pasteurizing milk, a discovery made more than two hundred ago by the great French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, for whom the term was coined.

It is in a small town, San Pablo, at the boundary of Isabela and Cagayan, where fresh milk of carabao is sold early in the morning along the highway. You can actually see the milking of carabao in the field. I used to buy one or two bottles, pint or liter size. The milk is kept in a bucket of warm water (around 50 to 70 degrees Celsius) while it is being sold. In this way the milk does not only reach the customer warm, but actually preserve and make the milk safe through pasteurization. It is pasteurization the old folks’ way!

The application of local pasteurization goes a long way if we analyze the many practices on the farm and home, such as washing of fruits and vegetables in warm water, blanching in the preparation of salad, steaming bottles, and the like.

One application is in rehydrating gamet (Porphyra), a red alga, a delicacy of the Ilocanos. It is similar to the Japanese nori. Wash the dried gamet, then add hot water to a desired amount you wish to have as soup. Observe how it expands into its original colloid state. In the process, the temperature quickly settles down to pasteurization level. Add fresh tomato, onion and a dash of salt and it is ready to serve.

3. Alginate from Sargassum can increase the shelf life of fruits

If you happen to be walking along the beach those dry brown seaweeds washed ashore could bring in a lot of profit, not only as source of algin and alginic acid which are extracted for food conditioner and for industrial use. The researchers, Tumambing K, Santok G, Seares A and V Verzola all from UST, found out that by extracting the alginate substance by ordinary means, the extract is effective in delaying the spoilage of fruits such as mango, papaya and banana. The extract is diluted 5 to 10 percent with water before the ripe or ripening fruits are immersed, then allowed to dry. The alginate compound leaves a coating on the fruit that delays ripening from two to four days, at the same time protects it from microorganisms that cause rotting and spoilage.

4. Home made coconut virgin oil – old folks tell us how to make one.

The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market, with many of them unreliable so that people are asking if they can make their own supply.

Why not? Old folks show us the way. I met a kindly old lady, Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil for her family’s use. She explained to me the process step by step.

• Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts. They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut.

• Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell.

• With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat. Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat.

• Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal). Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).

• Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

• Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom. It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

• Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear. Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat. In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik. The products of both processes have many uses, from ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.

5. Homemade salted eggs, anyone?

Making salted eggs is a very old technology, and most likely originated in China.
Here is an easy-to-follow procedure, the old folks’ way.

• Mix 12 cups of clay and 4 cups of salt, adding water gradually until they are well blended.

• Apply a layer of this mixture at the bottom of a palayok or banga.

• Coat each egg with the mixture.

• Arrange the coated eggs in layers, giving a space of 3 to 5 cm in between them.

• Add the extra mixture of clay and salt on top, cover the container with banana leaves, and keep the setup in a safe and cool place.

• Try one egg after 15 days by cooking below boiling point for 15 minutes. If not salty enough, extend storing period.

• Color the eggs if desired.

Salted eggs plus fresh ripe tomato and onions makes a wholesome viand. It goes well with any meal.

6. Refined salt and how it is made the old way.

Nagtupakan and San Sebastian are two villages (barangay) of San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) famous in making refined salt – salt as fine and white as refined sugar, you can mistake the two. This is how the native folks do it with a very old technology.

First the salt field is “irrigated” during the day by high tide coming directly from the sea, but instead of being drained in the succeeding low tide, the floodgate is closed trapping the seawater which leaves a crust of salt on the salt field. This is repeated to enrich the harvest.

The salt crust is “cultivated” by hand or with bullock using a light harrow to scrape the topsoil which contains the salt crust called ati’. The gathered ati’ is piled on the field or stored in a nearby shack for future use, thus allowing salt making even during the rainy season.

This is the process proper of extracting the salt from the crust. The crust is placed in a trough made of long wooden planks which looks like an oversize coffin. The bottom is lined with a layer of rice hay and a layer of sand on top of it. This serves as filter. Seawater is poured into the trough containing the crust to dissolve the salt. The solution is filtered leaving behind the silt and clay. The filtrate which is a high concentrated salt solution is collected at one end of the trough. This is called inna, from which was derived the terms ag-inna, referring to the process.

The inna or filtrate is “cooked” in the open in large iron kettle under low fire. More filtrate is added as it evaporates to increase the yield. The salt is turned regularly to prevent the formation of crust at the bottom and to hasten cooking. Just like in the final stage in cooking rice, the in salt yield is allowed to dry completely.

The salt product is placed in a large bamboo basket for tempering, allowing the salt to become mellow (like wine). During this stage the salt attains its true fine texture, whiteness, and dryness.

Salt making with this indigenous technology is now a dying industry. Ironically it is in the endangered stage of a craft that earns its place in the list of tourists’ attractions. There are reasons why the industry is dying and these are as follows.

• High cost of production

• Dwindling supply of firewood

• The younger generation would rather go other jobs, or pursue careers

• Product competition – commercial salt, local and imported, has flooded the market.

• Advanced technology such as solar desalination of seawater has replaced traditional processes.

• Water pollution has rendered many salt fields unsuitable for this industry.

• Comparative profitability of other industries like prawn farming, seaweed farming and fish cage culture have replaced the industry.

If you happen to go up north, visit the indigenous salt making villages, seven km west of Vigan, and find out for yourself which is salt and which is sugar just by looking at these two similar products in all their fineness and whiteness.

7. Make patis and bagoong at home

Before these indigenous products became commercialized, rural households had been making their own supply following this simple procedure.

• Wash fish or alamang in clean water.

• For every three cups of fish (e.g. anchovies or munamon), add one cup of salt and mix well.

• Place fish and salt mixture in earthenware (banga or burnay) or glass container.

• Cover container tightly with muslim cloth and banana leaves to keep away flies and other insects.

• Let the setup stand for at least a month; better still after a year to develop its aroma and flavor.

Seasoned bagoong yields a clear golden layer of patis on top. If the patis layer is at the middle or bottom it means the bagoong is not yet mature, or it must have been diluted with water.

8. Mango jam for home and business, too.

When it is peak season for mango, a lot of this farm resource goes to waste. Don’t allow this to happen. Mango makes a perfect jam for snacks and dessert. Try this easy-to-follow procedure.
• Wash mangoes thoroughly in running water.

• Cut into halves, scoop out pulp and pass through a coarse sieve.

• Measure pulp and add sugar.

• For every two cups of mango pulp, add one cup of sugar.

• Cook in a heavy aluminum pan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thick enough to be spooned out.

• Pack in warm sterilized jars while hot and seal immediately.

It is a practice to make the inferior fruits into jam. Well, as long as they are well ripe, fresh and clean. A word of caution though - just a single overripe fruit mixed inadvertently is enough to spoil the wholesome taste of the jam. Also, use stainless knife and pan to prevent discoloration of the product.

This formula is applicable to other fruits like pineapple, papaya, chico, tiessa and the like.

9. Rice is the best substitute for wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products that are potential substitutes for wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

• Rice has many indigenous uses from suman tbihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.

• In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.

• Rice is more digestible than wheat. Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.

• Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.

Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations - corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).

Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture. Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat.

10. Banana leaves make the best food wrapper – practical, multipurpose, aromatic and environment-friendly.

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.

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.

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

• 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.

• 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).

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

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


Water remains cool in earthen pot (calamba or caramba) even in hot weather.

Notice that the earthen pot “perspires” because it is porous. Like sweat it keeps the body cool. Cooling is the after effect of evaporation. Fanning increases the rate of evaporation, so with cooling. Algae tend to grow on the moist surface. This adds to the cooling effect, but not until the pores are covered by the algae. In which case it is advisable to clean the earthen pot or jar to keep the pores open and give that clean reddish brick luster.

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