Sunday, June 26, 2011

philippine spinach (talinum fruticosum) salad

Meet the Philippine Spinach (Talinum fruticosum). It is also called Ceylon spinach, Fame flower, Potherb Fameflower, Surinam Purslane, Sweetheart, and Waterleaf. It is cultivated as a leafy vegetable in Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, it goes by the name 'talinum,' and is often dismissed as a weed. Because of this, talinum is practically impossible to buy in the country. So you don't have much choice but to grow it on your own. The good news is that talinum is easy to grow and propagate via seed or cutting, and it doesn't need that much space. It likes a lot of sun, though. I have seen talinum growing happily in recycled water bottles hanging from the kitchen window grilles of a friend's 14th floor apartment.

Talinum is a tropical herbaceous perennial plant rich in vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, and dietary fiber. The young leaves and stalks are used raw or blanched in salads. They are also cooked in a variety of ways just like spinach. In our kitchen, talinum is often used in salads, stir-fried greens, sinigang, and fried rice.

This is one recipe for talinum salad.

3 cups raw talinum
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes
2 shallots
water for blanching
salt to taste

(01) Pick young talinum shoots from your garden. The stalk should be easy to pinch off. If there's some resistance, it may already be too old. So move up the stalk until it breaks off easily.

(02) Wash the talinum thoroughly and remove any flowers and seeds. If some of the stalks are too hard, remove the hard portions. Detach the leaves from these hard portions. You can still use the leaves for this recipe.

(03) Boil enough water in a pot to blanche the talinum. You have to be ready with tongs or a slotted spoon to fish out the talinum as soon as they wilt.

(04) Remove the talinum from the water and dump them in a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

(05) Cube the ripe tomatoes. Set aside.

(06) Peel the shallots and slice thinly. Set aside.

(07) Mix the blanched talinum, tomatoes, and shallots in a bowl. Season with salt.

We often pair this talinum salad with chickpea or mung bean fritters. It also goes well with vegetarian barbecue. And it is a great way to make boiled eggs exciting.

By the way, according to most of what i've read, Talinum fruticosum and Talinum triangulare are one and the same.