Sanselera? Sansalera? Anyone have a clue???


I ran across this palanggana of stunningly vibrant small fresh leaves of an herb (?, I am assuming) or plant, at the entrance to the Nasugbu market several weeks ago. At PHP10 for a small cup or palm full, the vendor said it was “sanselera” or SOMETHING that sounded like that. I purchased two little plastic bags full and went around to my sukis in the market and asked each of them what it was called and got salsalera, salselera, etc. and I assumed I could figure it out once I got home. They advised that it was incredibly bitter, but incredibly good for you… in the same manner that say ampalaya’s bitterness must be balanced off with fantastic healing or rejuvenation benefits…


Back at home, I couldn’t find any information on the herb/leaves/etc. and stuck the greens in the fridge, intending to add them to an omelette with some onions and tomatoes (cook only for seconds, they warned, or the bitterness would be mind-boggling… or something to that effect). But I forgot about the greens the following morning, left on a trip, and they weren’t so vibrant when I returned. So PHP20 bucks worth of sanselrea went into the garbage. Last week, I returned to the same market but couldn’t find any more of this intriguing herb, and was told it wasn’t that easy to find anymore… so that first encounter may be my last for many more years… bummer. But I am still surprised that I can’t identify it… so I am asking all of you guys if you happen to know what it is, what it is called, and if it has an English name… etc. Many thanks for your help!!!



36 Responses

  1. As far as I can tell from the picture it looks like what we call “sekan” (not sure of the spelling)here in Bulacan. It is predominantly found in the rice paddies along the “pilapil.” It is bitter and is cooked the same way you would the “Kulatding ampalaya leaves.” Those are the tiny leaves of the ampalaya plant that has passed its fruiting stage. It is sauteed in garlic, onions, tomatoes, flaked tinapa and patis. The leaves are added and not stirred until done so that it does not become overly bitter. It is difficult to find because it just grows wild and is considered a weed.

  2. Mollugo oppositifolia or sarsalida?

    According to Manuel Blanco, in Flora de Filipinas, v. 1, pg. 63 (1877)

    Esta planta, cuyas hojas tendran una pulgada de largo, y que se da en varias partes en los terrenos en donde sa ha recogido el arroz, apenas tiene un pie de altura. Los indios, y aun los europeos, la comen cocida, y llaman con un nombre semejante al botanico. En otras partes la llaman Salsalida. Es amarga, y la conocen tambien en el pueblo de Batangas.

  3. so there Marketman — Maricel simply confirmed what Blanco wrote more than a century ago.

    we learn something new from you and the other readers so often!

  4. i think it is “sekan” as we call it in tagalog. here in quezon city, we still have them sometimes in our backyard, but these are very “sensitive” herbs because they only grow once-a-year. our parents who are “taal” from tandang sora cook them with sardines just like in ampalaya leaves. hope this helps.

  5. MM, at first i thought it was purslane (alusiman in iloilo)

    but purslane is sour and the stem is fleshy…then, looking at the other pictures, i thought it was ‘lupo’, usually cooked with mongo-sauteed. but lupo is not bitter. this other site has the picture at the very bottom…
    and his site finally has the ‘linabog nga pagi’ picture–but no quest continues.

  6. MM, the leafy veggie is called “papait” in the north. Well as the name implies, it is indeed very bitter. Folks in Pangasinan just blanche it in boiling water and dip the leaves in a sauce of tomatoes, bagoong and onions. Old folks from our Province swear by its medical potency versus Malaria, worm infestation and Anemia.

  7. hmmm. . . we call this “papait” even if it is wickedly bitter i still like it, you’ll get used to its bitterness, we usually do this “ginisa” style with lots of tomatoes and sometimes we add ground beef or pork. . . yummm but some might not like it. . .

  8. Dave and gaye are right! In Dagupan, we call it “papait” named after its bitter taste..My mother sautees it in bagoong, tomatoes and ground pork. The first-time eaters may not like it…i think it is an “acquired taste”.

  9. Hi MM
    I have been reading your blog for about a year but this is the first time I’m leaving a comment. I’ve been in Manila for 8 months and your blog has helped me find so many needed ingredients around town, thank you!
    I think I can help with this “herb”. I am of Indian origin and what you had looks like fenugreek leaves.

  10. kshama, glad you enjoy the blog and thanks for the comment, will hunt this weed/herb down. Thanks… Thank you to all for your inputs, I feel like a know much more about this herb…

  11. I am going to the Vietnamese store today to check the name of this herb.. I had used this before in their soup and in their “soft” vietnamese summer roll, with the spicy peanut butter/hoisin sauce mixed, the bitterness is gone. I like this herb, and yeah it is so sensitive. I bought some last month, used some, and the rest I placed on a little water, for rooting (2 days), and lo and behold I planted them after. I just saw that some shoots have come up in my little patch of soil.

  12. I think this not the herb fenugreek (Methi), the description and the pictures is not the same.. I’ll get into our listing of medicinal herbs and I will get the English name.

  13. (This is probably the 10th time I’ve posted this…haha! I will exclude the link I was trying to put in.)

    Although the leaves don’t look the same to me, Mother swears your photos are of kilitis…or, watercress.

  14. I do not really have a good memory of what sekan looked like but, because of the description of bitter taste and what Maricel said, I think it is sekan as we Bulakeños call it. My spinster aunt swore by its nutritional value. And yes, it is an acquired taste.

  15. never heard about this leafy veggie before. but here in Germany, there is a very similar looking leaf and they call it Pflucksalat and eat it as salad dressed with white sauce from the combination of Apple Vinegar,cream, chopped onion seasoned with Pepper and bit salt. As you said that its bitter, maybe adding a sweet Balsamico cream as topping would be fine Ü

  16. I agree with Brie & L, it’s called Cress. I find this in a bag of mixed salad leaves –the slightly bitter taste adds a punch to the salad greens.

  17. Hi MM,

    Here in Pampanga, we call this “maligoso”. Its from a plant. My dad eats this with sardines. Its good for lowering blood sugar, it works for my dad!

  18. Hi MM,
    It’s a shame you did not put any effort to cook this good find.We should appreciate the bounty we have instead of just putting it to waste.

  19. i’m a tagalog in our it is called sekan i just learn to eat it when i lived with my ilokana biyenan for me it is beneficial coz it lower my bp and makes me feel healthy every time i eat this food

  20. This is the fresh fenugreek, aka Methi in India. It is very bitter and an acquired taste. We cook it with ground beef, and spinach…

  21. ahm. i’m pamela of RMHS Manila, conducting a study about the potential of this plant. may i know where we can find some of this plants? tnx ^^

  22. they call it papait plant in North. and has a scientific name of Mollugo oppositifolia Linn. is this plantg available in the market here in quezon city?

  23. papait ang tawag sa norte…ensalada with kamatis and sibuyas tagalog….di ko mawari kumakain nadin pala nito sa nasugbu…pinauso siguro ng mga ilukano hehhehe tingin ko papait ito o kaya serpentina,,,….

  24. pano po ba mgtnim nto? kc hlos rare na to sa ngaun gsto ko mapropagate ksama ng talinum at kulitis as indigenous vegetables nkabili kc ako nyang papait sa kalentong gnawa ko
    tnanim ko un cuttings ntong nov.15,2009 as exprmnts.

  25. mullugo tawag dyan, tignan nyu pic sa link

    inde tumutubo yung cuttings nya unless na may ugat ugat. ginagawa namin, yung pinaghugasan mo ng papait, isasaboy mo sa lupa na gusto mong patubuan, kasi subrang liliit ng mga buto nyan, sumasama sa pinaghugasan.

    yeah, mukang rare na nga ang halamang yan

  26. we call this “maligoso” in Pampanga, and in our barrio in Porac, we can still enjoy them as they are still in abundance. yesterday, i ate this for the first time and i really appreciated the taste. i felt energized after eating.

  27. Oo nga, ang dami ngayon na narito sa Tarlac. Tawag ‘papait’ daw. Kagabi lang bumiling malaking bunch, PHP 10 lang. Talagang mapait kundi naim-imas met.

  28. Yes…definitely Methi…Fenugreek….<> the best is if u get the cress….two leaves only….sold in all Indian Markets….can be made into
    1) a salad…with Tomatoes…Onions…Coriander Leaves…with a Lime and Salt and Pepper Dressing.
    2) Stir fried very quickly with Shrimps
    3) Stir fried with baby potatoes
    4) Middle Eastern Dip called Helbe and Sweet of the same name
    Good for Lactating Mothers to increase the yield of milk. Very good herb for women in general..e.g. PMS. Gives heat to the body like Mustard Greens. Penetrates all parts of the body and detoxifies the body of malodours (Hindi Mabaho)
    The picture is of the plant from which only the leaves and tender parts are used and sometimes blanched and pureed before adding to Beef or Mutton aka “Methi Ghosht” (Meat)
    Soaking in Salted Water helps to remove the Bitterness like done for Ampalaya

  29. Yesterday, I and my wife, as we always did every weekend, went to Malolos Market in Bulacan. Last week I saw the leaves and was prodding my wife to buy even just a small plastic bag but she hesitated since she was not sure how to cook it though I always did the cooking. When I was in elementary, in the afternoon before going home, we picked such herbs and brought them home ( hehehe, I never tried tasting it since I did it just for fun and I never did find out if my mother really cooked it).
    Then yesterday, we saw the leaves again. We bought a small bag of it for PhP12.00. Last night I cooked it suateed in garlic, onions, tomatoes and corned tuna. I over-cooked it to remove the bitterness a bit and ate it with biscuits. It tasted a bit bitter but boy it’s really good! This weekend you can try your luck. Go to Malolos Market and you might get lucky since it is summer. It grows during summer.



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