These unusual squiggly â€œgreensâ€ are sometimes seen at the larger, wet markets in Manila. Often I have spotted them in stalls that obviously cater to those from the Northern provinces in Luzon such as Ilocos, Pampanga, etc. and I have shied away from them simply because I have never known what they were called or what they were and how they were used. The only time I have seen them in a dish was in Mike Minaâ€™s great post on pinakbet, which included these â€œhimbabauâ€ at he top of his layering of vegetables for the pinakbet. At the market yesterday, the vendor from Baguio had a different name for these greens and though I stared at the sign and repeated the name mentally over twenty times thinking that would help me recall the term later, I completely forgot her name for it. At any rate, there isnâ€™t much about this vegetable in any of my reference books, and even a book by Doreen Fernandez simply mentions it only once, as part of a list of flowers that we eat, along with kalabasa (squash) blooms, katuray and banana heartâ€¦
Some of Marketmanilaâ€™s readers know a LOT more about this flower than I do so please chime in with comments if I have gotten this completely wrong.
There were few useful sources on the internet when you typed in â€œhimbabauâ€ and the Philippine Department of Agriculture site has this post. None of my reference books seem to have this flower in it so taking off from the link above, and a scientific name of Excoecaria Agallocha, you would proceed to this site and description. Yikes, if this association between the edible flower/green and the tree named the same way (this is where it might just be mistaken identity), it means that himbabau is the male flower of a mangrove tree that is in many ways, a highly toxic and poisonous treeâ€¦the sap in particular used in many countries as a poison on darts, weapons or to dizzy fish et al. The sap is believed to be blinding if it comes in contact with your eyes, hence itâ€™s English name. At any rate, I have still to taste these finds and hope to try it in a pinakbet soonâ€¦any suggestions for its alternative uses would be appreciatedâ€¦
Himbabau, alucon, alukon, baeg, etc. is not the tree I describe above… With the help of Tulip, and her investigative skills, it seems this blossom/vegetable is Broussonetia Luzonica, rather than Excoecaria Agallocha, which confusingly, is also called Himbabau… Here are a link or two for more information… Now, I have definitely learned something today!