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Nat’l scientist loves Zacamote

April 14, 2010

Agri Plain Talk

Nat’l scientist loves Zacamote


April 7, 2010, 3:38pm

Our good friend from Los Baños, Dr. Benito S. Vergara, national scientist, has a subtle sense of humor. A retired scientist from the International Rice Research Institute, he is today into many things horticultural. He is growing a lot of ornamentals and selected fruit bearing plants.

Just because we have been distributing a lot of free planting materials of a camote variety from Taiwan that produces very tender shoots, he has decided to christen it Zacamote after us.

We gave him some planting materials sometime in September last year, reluctantly receiving it because he is not very fond of eating camote tops. He said he does not like the rough sensation of the small bristles on the stems and petioles of the ordinary camote shoot. He continues: “Hesitantly, I tried the boiled shoots of Zacamote. To my surprise, I liked it. No rough sensation, and better than kangkong since it has more substance or fibers.

“Different people have different ways of preparing camote tops, i.e., boiling or blanching the tops and dipping the same in special concoctions like soy sauce with or without calamansi juice, vinegar, patis, etc. The best is of course with bagoong if you can stand the uric acid effect. The vegetable can also be sauteed in different ways. We would like to hear all the preparations used in eating camote tops and will try them with Zacamote.

“We have also become an advocate of Zacamote and have given shoots for planting to many friends. During a lunch reunion with high school friends, we requested the restaurant to cook the Zacamote shoots and many were asking for shoots that they can plant after tasting the excellent sauteed Zacamote. Planting a shoot with three large wilted leaves will surprise you with turgid leaves in three days. The top shoots can be harvested in two weeks.

“Unfortunately, the people who need to plant Zacamote most are not interested in planting it. I think the concept of eating ‘talbos ng camote’ connotes being poor. If we can get some high profile personalities to endorse Zacamote, more people will try it and will get hooked to it.

“We have Zacamote tops two to three times a week from a small plot. Zac told us that it does not produce tubers – perhaps when you harvest the shoots often. However, after four months of eating Zacamote tops, we noticed the soil was breaking up or cracking. Our digging produced tubers as big as child’s head, a whooping 1.84 kilograms. The average tubers we harvested weighed 300 grams.

“Zacamote is definitely a vegetable you should plant in your backyard. We will have shoots for planting available at the Los Banos Flower and Garden show this April 23 to May 2 at the UPLB Seniors’ Social Garden.”

Well, we have Vic Golamco and his wife Isabel to thank for the Zacamote. They were the ones who gave us the planting materials. Mrs. Golamco is the finance officer of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

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