Being an Oregon girl through and through two things I can't live without are the great outdoors and clean, fresh, organic food. Bring those two together into one educational, inspirational and eye-opening afternoon and you've found the way to my heart...and er, stomach.
Last week we went with our friend Mia to Ilocos Norte. Being a 12hr bus ride north of Manila on roads that seem to be under constant construction, and without an airport nearby, tourism is slow to arrive in this pristine tropical paradise at the northern most tip of Luzon. Walking the deserted white sand beaches, your only company is the faceless hollering and screeches that echo from the dense jungle and mountains that continue their ascension straight from the sea.
Mia introduced us to Bing, the proprietress of Pannzian Beach, an eco-resort that strives to bring awareness and change to social and ecological issues within the local community. Pannzian sits nestled at the mouth of a mountain rimmed valley that opens to the sea, on land that has been in Bing's family for as long as local history can recall. The resort boasts an innovative farm-to-table restaurant that features wild-harvested foods from the surrounding area. And thus, we have come for the foraging, our goal: to collect enough wild edibles to feed our group of five.
Bing in her mud boots and we in our flip flops set out with baskets to collect our lunch and wide-brimmed woven hats to protect against the imminent rains. We're hardly a few feet from the path when Bing starts pointing out edibles, how to prepare them and what medicinal benefits they might hold. I'm instantly aware and cautious of my every step, fearful of stepping on perfectly good salad greens.
It seems like only minutes have passed and our baskets are brimming; wild cabbage and spinach, mini cucumbers (only and inch long and ready to eat!), wild tarragon, mint, oregano and basil, and mulberries too! We continue for awhile, running around excitedly pointing out plants to Bing, at which she'll either nod encouragingly or frown and laugh at our childish curiosity and enthusiasm.
We return to the kitchen and the chef allows us to lurk around watching how they prepare our pickings. Fresh coconut meat is scraped from the shell to make milk, and the greens are sautéed and steamed. Before long we're sitting down to enjoy the day's catch, a vegan feast that's taken only a keen eye and a bit of botanical knowledge to acquire. As a perfect crescendo the sky cracks and the heavy clouds spill around us in the open walled, grass roofed building. The mood is light and joyous, as if a new world has just been unveiled. A world of plenty; a world where fresh and food are synonymous, where humans and nature coexist respectfully. A world of possibility and plants.
Bing pointing out edibles.
Sauteed with fresh coconut milk, salt and pepper, tastes like chicken!...ish
Wild Bugnay berries, hand pressed for wine!
A feast to remember!
Thank you Mia and Gus Gus for making this incredible day happen!