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Sweet Potato Leaves, Anyone?

Sweet Potato Tops

Oftentimes, people who embrace the vegetarian lifestyle fail to eat as healthy as they should. Abstaining from flesh foods alone is not a sure fire formula for being and staying healthy. There are many poor food choices a vegetarian can make and it is a common misconception that being vegetarian alone can make one trim and healthy.

The fact is, many vegetarians are guilty of not eating the right food.  They overindulge in food that is primarily composed of simple carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta and sugar-laden sweets. Those bowls of pomodoro or servings of blueberry cheesecake are definitely a temptation to many.

Many vegetarians view frequent meals of salad, with the staple of lettuce and tomatoes, as unappealing. Even dark green kale with soy sauce just doesn’t hit the spot at times, which is why many vegetarians resort to mock meat, gluten or seitan to prepare meals that are more familiar, and which opens up doors to much more possibilities for eating diverse.

In the Philippines, Sweet potato tops or tendrils abound and figure in many of their native dishes. Known locally as “Talbos ng Kamote” (Scientific name: Ipomoea Batatas), Filipinos have learned to cook this lowly vegetable in a variety of ways, too many to mention, the usual being simply steamed by placing them on top of steeping rice and eaten with some salty dip. It can be one of the ingredients in ‘sinigang’ or even ‘bulanglang’, both being vegetable stews containing different ingredients, depending on how well they blend with each other, the former being soured by an agent, usually tamarind. As the planting vegetable of choice, sweet potato grows in many families’ backyards, open lots and is also readily available at any public market.

It is not even difficult to grow and cultivate, all one needs to do is to stick a stalk into the ground, and it grows. It is a vine, which most people just allow to crawl on the ground. I suspect it can grow on trellises too, as I have seen its cousin, the purple yam do.  A few weeks later, the tendrils are available for picking, or if you choose to leave it be, the roots will start growing as sweet potato tubers, ready to be pulled from the ground to be eaten. Sweet Potato grows continuously all throughout the year, but does tend to become more  prolific during the rainy or wet season;

Apart from being tasty, this simple vegetable is packed with nutrition, being the only vegetable with Iodine, a common substance found in seafood. It also contains vitamin A, C and Calcium; In the Philippines, it is widely believed that lactating mothers fed sweet potato tops improve their breast milk production. In fact, it is now a major ingredient of a commercially available food supplement drink in the Philippines. It is also a folk remedy which is used to treat diarrhea and dizziness;

Here is a simple recipe for Sweet Potato tendrils which is easy to prepare and which can be eaten any day, preferably with some nutritious organic brown rice, which also contains a lot of Vitamin B.

Sweet Potato Tops a la Kuwago

• Dash of Asafetida
• 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil
• 1 Tsp of Mustard Seeds
• 4 pcs potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch squares
• 4 or more large Tomatoes, diced finely or 1 small can crushed tomatoes
• 3 cups of Water, Vegetable Stock or Rice Washing
• 1 large bunch of Sweet Potato Tops, hard stems removed and washed
• Dash of Cumin Powder
• Sea Salt or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, to taste

In a deep pot, preferably die cast iron, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. Fry them until they start to pop. Add the asafetida. Add the cumin. Add the potatoes and stir fry them until the outer parts start to change color. Add and sauté the tomatoes until they become tender. Add the water and allow it to boil. Add your sea salt or Bragg’s. Add the Sweet potato tops. Continue to boil, around 5 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough, mixing them once or twice to ensure that all the ingredients are cooked evenly. Serve warm.

Enjoy your meal, savor the nourishment, stay healthy and keep your Light shining bright!

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