We Played with Local Herbs
I remember playing with local herbs. They were our first "toys." We used them as food we "cooked" in our makeshift stoves and pots with make-believe flames under it. We used local herbs not only as veggies but also as beef, pork, and fish. We would cut leaves and shape them into fish, chicken drumsticks, and steaks.
The common leaf we played with was the native kamote top (Ipomoea Batatas). Sometimes, we also used kamoteng kahoy or cassava (Manihot Esculenta) leaves that are naturally shaped like a human hand with fingers. We would cut a finger, and that served as a small fish. Actually, fresh young buds of the kamoteng kahoy is edible and some rustic Pinoys sauteed that in garlic and onions for a healthy and tasty veggie meal.
Both kamote tops (sweet potato) and kamoteng kahoy (literally cassava wood) are root crops. The difference is that kamote tops are smaller and round, sweeter, and smoother in texture. The plant is a spreading vine and may be made to spread on wooden ladders or simply left on the ground. Both are rich in vitamins and minerals. The root crop of kamote tops is hiddden shallower in the ground and easier to harvest. To plant it, you have to cut several soft stems and dig a hole on the ground to plant them in. They're easy to grow. They need minimal care. Just water them enough regularly until they have spread enough.
Kamote tops or talbos ng kamote is cooked by either simmering or steaming. I prefer steaming. You can also mix it in with souped food dishes. I like boiling the leaves and stems and then drinking the brew as tea. It is a good health tea and reportedly helps cure a lot of diseases. Hence, many in the Philippines consider it a herbal remedy. A lot of folks say it's good if you are anemic. It is also supposed to normalize platelet counts.
Kamoteng kahoy is a short, slim, and upright tree with lots of nudges on its body. It's leaves are similar to what papaya has, only smaller. To plant it, cut a foot-long portion of the tree and bury the whole thing in the ground. Water until the sprouts are tall enough. It needs minimal care. To harvest the rootcrop, you need to dig deep around it first, careful not to accidentally cut it short. Sometimes the roots swell bigger than an adult human leg, weighing several pounds.
It's mature leaves are not edible. New and young sprouts on its top are harvested and cooked. The first time I tasted it was an adventure. I never imagined before that cassava leaves could be eaten. I learned about it from Bicolanos.