Himbaba-o: Odd but Tasty and Nutritious Philippine Vegetable

Himbaba-o is an indigenous vegetable in the Philippines. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), himbaba-o is widely grown in the Philippines. As proof, the DENR gathered unique names for himbaba-o in the different provinces of the Philippines.

In Luzon, it is known as alukon in Ilocos, baeg in Pangasinan, alokon bongon in Mt. Province, himbaba-o in Nueva Ecija, kabag in Mindoro, alitagtag in Camarines. While in the Visayas, himbaba-o is known as bulbulan in Cebu and Negros, and talubang in Siquijor. In Mindanao, himbaba-o is known as karud in Misamis, liba in Davao, and malabingan in Sulu.

Himbaba-o is a small to medium-sized tree. Horticulturists classify himbaba-o as a dioecious tree. Dioecious trees have male and female flowers in separate trees. Thus, it is important for the male and female trees to be planted near each other for pollination to occur.

The DENR reports that himbaba-o is a drought-tolerant and fast-growing species. In Mindanao, himbaba-o wood is used for paneling, furniture, and cabinetwork. In the Visayas, the wood is used in making boats and canoes because it is water resistant.

The Ilocanos use the himbaba-o's tender young leaves and the flowers as ingredients for vegetable stew.

The Philippine Food Composition Tables (FCT) published by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) reports that the himbaba-o flower contains 362 milligrams of calcium and 645 micrograms of beta-carotene while the same amount of leaves contain 357 micrograms of calcium and 3,035 micrograms of beta-carotene per 100 grams edible portion each.

My grandmother, an Ilocana, used to cook stewed himbaba-o topped with fried fish. The dish is popularly known as dinendeng or inabrao. Here's how to prepare it:


2-3 tablespoons bagoong na isda
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup, patani or young lima beans, peeled
1/2 cup saluyot leaves, clean and trimmed
1/2 cup himbaba--o flowers, clean and trimmed
1 piece fried fish


Dilute bagoong na isda in 2 cups hot water and strain. Simmer water seasoned with bagoong for 2 minutes then add garlic and patani. Simmer for 3 minutes or until patani is tender. Add saluyot and himbaba-o flowers and simmer for 5 minutes or until himbaba-o and saluyot leaves turn deep green and the broth becomes thick. Top with fried fish and cook for a minute. Serve hot.

The FNRI-DOST promotes the use of indigenous vegetables. Recently, FNRI-DOST recently published "Lutong FNRI: Mga Katutubong Gulay," a collection of indigenous vegetable recipes from soup to dessert. The collection also contains information on the yield per recipe and the estimated energy and nutrient content per serving.

"Lutong FNRI: Mga Katutubong Gulay" and other nutritious recipes are available at the FNRI-DOST Library and soon it will be uploaded in the FNRI website.

For more information on food and nutrition, contact Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City, E-Mail: mvc@fnri.dost.gov.ph or mar_v_c@yahoo.com, Telefax: (02) 8372934, (02) 8273164, or call (02) 8372071 local 2296 or visit our website: http:www.fnri.dost.gov.ph (Czarina Teresita S. Martinez, FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service/PIA-Caraga)

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