A lot of people are getting interested in Ashitaba, the herb with a many medicinal attributes that we wrote about in this blog some weeks back. Now that seeds and seedlings are available, the next thing enthusiasts would like to know is how to grow the plant.
Here are some pointers gathered from the very persons who have hands-on experience in culturing the medicinal herb under local conditions. The two are Adela Ang of Quezon City and Marvin Chagyo of La Trinidad in Benguet.
Adela is a cancer survivor who has come up with this advocacy of making the real Ashitaba available to ordinary people at an affordable price. Since 2012 she has done much research on the internet. At the same time she went to Taiwan to acquire planting materials as well as train on growing and processing Ashitaba products.
Marvin, on the other hand, used to be a strawberry grower before he was engaged by Adela to become her contract grower in his one-hectare farm in Lamtang, La Trinidad. He majored in horticulture at the Benguet State University and has done his own experimentation in growing the Ashitaba seeds as well as the plants that were imported from Taiwan.
SLOW-GROWING SEEDLINGS – One useful observation of Marvin is that seeds that sprout grow very slowly. As per his experience, the seedlings take about four months to attain a height of a few inches. Lately, however, he has found a way of accelerating the growth of his seedlings. This is by spraying the young seedlings (as early as when they have two leaves) with the Power Grower Combo developed by Alfonso Puyat. This is the same formulation of plant growth accelerator that has revived the orchids of Edna Viterbo damaged by Typhoon Yolanda, which we featured earlier in this column.
At first, Marvin sprayed Power Grower Combo on some of his Ashitaba seedlings and leaving some untreated. To the pleasant surprise of Marvin as well as Adela, the seedlings have suddenly become bigger and more robust. The same was experienced by Adela in her seedlings germinated at her former place at the Manila Seedling Bank which have been transferred to a new nursery in Silang, Cavite.
FERTILIZER TRIALS – In the field, Marvin without telling Adela, experimented on using chemical fertilizer in one plot, a combination of chemical and organic fertilizer in another, and a plot fertilized with purely organic fertilizer. This is what Marvin found. He observed that the plants responded immediately to the chemical fertilizer. On the other hand, the plants that were applied with organic fertilizer grew slower but had caught up by the fourth month, eventually exceeding the performance of the chemically fertilized plants in the long run. Now, he prefers organic to chemical fertilizers.
GOOD DRAINAGE – Marvin showed us a portion of his plantation where the plants were not as robust. The reason, he explained, was that the area was lower and rainwater accumulated there. There was not adequate drainage, that’s what. And so he recommends that the plantation should be provided with drainage canals between plots.
Ashitaba plants are also sensitive to strong rains. They can get killed by too much water. That is why when we visited Marvin, he was in the process of putting up posts for installing plastic roofing over the full grown plants. That is one way of assuring unblemished leaves for processing into tea. Right now, they are harvesting leaves and stalks for making tea.
TAGAYTAY AS PRODUCTION AREA – Adela is convinced that Tagaytay is a good growing area to produce leaves and stalks for processing. A couple of months back, they balled several hundred plants from Benguet and planted them in the new growing area in Tagaytay. During the first month, the plants looked stressed. Many of their leaves were yellowish.
Adela tells us now that the stressed plants have become vigorous and are producing big green leaves. The reason? She has been having those plants regularly sprayed with Power Grower Combo. In a month or so, the leaves would be ready for harvesting for making Ashitaba tea.
BENGUET FOR FLOWER PRODUCTION – Adela Ang believes that Tagaytay is a good place for the production of Ashitaba leaves for making Ashitaba tea. Although transporting the harvest from Benguet to Manila is more expensive, she will continue growing the plant in the Cordillera for the production of Ashitaba flowers. Why flowers? Well, she says the flowers yield a lot of chalcone which is rich in antioxidants. That’s what she will use in making premium Golden Ashitaba tea with chalcone.
We are sure more experiments will be conducted to find out better ways of producing Ashitaba. One, for instance, will be to find a way of growing Ashitaba satisfactorily in the lowland.