ONE INDIGENOUS vegetable bush that should be popularized in many parts of the country is what is variously called Lagikway, Gikway and Likway, depending on the place where the plant is grown.
This plant, botanically known as Abelmoschus manihot, usually abounds in Quezon province, Bicol and places in Mindanao like Dinagat Island, Zamboanga and other provinces. It is virtually unknown, however, in northern Luzon.
DIFFERENT PREPARATIONS – The young leaves are the edible portion. The young leaves in Bicol, according to Nilda Montilla, are usually used in wrapping fish ‘pinangat’ or ‘paksiw’. In Zamboanga, according to Henry Montilla (Nilda’s brother-in-law), Likway (that’s what they call it there) is used in soupy dishes like sinigang and other vegetable preparations.
On the other hand, Dr. Rodel Maghirang, a university researcher from UP Los Baños who is from Quezon province, says that aside from the preparations cited above, he loves to just blanch the young leaves in a microwave. Then he dips the blanched leaves in soy sauce with calamansi. Sometimes, he makes omelet out of the young leaves. What is good about Lagikway, he said, is that it has a neutral taste. It has no distinct or strong aroma that may not be liked by some consumers.
The Lagikway is related to the okra, and its leaves have that slimy characteristic of the okra and saluyot. Having this characteristic is believed by many that it has special health value. Okra, which is a favorite of the Japanese, is believed to absorb extra cholesterol in the body.
PERENNIAL BUSH – What is also good about Lagikway is that it is a perennial bush which can be maintained in the backyard as a sustainable source of fresh vegetable. It can be grown in the ground as well as in pots or containers. For as long as it is well taken care of, it will thrive for many years. Fertilizing the plant in the ground with organic fertilizer like Durabloom will sustain robust growth. Much more so if the plant is sprayed with Power Grower Combo, a plant growth accelerator formulated by Alfonso G. Puyat.
Another advantage of this indigenous bush vegetable is that it is very easy to multiply by cuttings. Semi-mature cuttings will easily take root in a matter of weeks.
LEAF FORMS – According to Dr. Maghirang, there are several variants in leaf form. Some have broad leaves. Others have deeply divided leaves. Some have dark green leaves while others are with light green leaves. His favorite is a variant with yellowish petiole.
Dr. Maghirang said that he has not seen any flowering Lagikway in Quezon province. The first time he saw one that flowered was in Ormoc City. He would love to see more flower-bearing Lagikway so he could produce his own hybrid.
Dr. Maghirang says that Lagikway is usually found in areas where rainfall is more pronounced like Quezon and other parts of the country. Will Lagikway thrive in the Ilocos in the north where there is a long dry season? Dr. Maghirang said there should be no problem as long as the plants are watered whenever the soil is dry, and the plants are adequately fertilized.
Incidentally, we acquired some mature cuttings during our trip to Dinagat Island in July 2013. We now have quite a number of propagations in our small farm in Teresa, Rizal. We will now start trying some Lagikway recipes.