A Manong's Backyard Garden

At home in the Silicon Valley my dad used to grow vegetables in our backyard. I used to get real dirty playing in the garden as a kid. I believe he must have loved to grow vegetables and fruit trees from working as a farmhand in Hawaii and California. He would grow bittermelon, string beans, eggplants, tomatoes, Tabungao and Upo squash, and other varieties every year. Back then they didn't have all the Asian supermarkets around like they do now so many of the vegetables for the Filipino dishes were not available, so they grew their own and traded with other friends and relatives. 

We ate a lot of meat and mixed vegetable dishes. I don't believe it was any type of Philippine dish but resembled the dish called Pinakbet. My mom and dad would just mix whatever meat be it pork, beef, or chicken with whatever vegetables were available. I recreated a similar dish to the middle right of this section. It's simple, first fill a medium or large saucepan with water, soy sauce, vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar), add crushed garlic and ginger to taste. I add a tablespoon of chicken bouillon as well. Sometimes I may add patis (fish sauce) but I don't like it too salty. Cook until boil then add the meat. Wash and cut up some meat into 1" chunks, add to the boiling mixture in the pot. Pork and beef cooks longer about 45 minutes or until water is half gone. Chicken cook about 30 minutes, then add .
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vegetables, I love eggplant and okra and use those vegetables most of the time. Sometimes I will add string beans, different types of potatoes and squashes as well. I usually add the potatoes and string beans to cook in the last 20 minutes; squashes cook in last 15 minutes; eggplant and okra only 5 minutes because I like them a little firm and not soggy.

The Tomato Monster

I have fond memories of these tomato hornworms. My cousins and I would chase our screaming younger cousins calling it a monster. They were the baddest creatures in the backyard garden, no one messed with them. I would get these black hairy caterpillars and put them in a jar with the tomato hornworm and watch them fight. The hornworm always won. I put 2 caterpillars in the jar and still the hornworm would be on top killing all rivals.

To track these worms you need to look for the little dark green poop they leave behind. You see that then you know a worm is close by. These tomato monsters can grow to a massive 4" long. The adult forms of these hornworms are boring. They turn into these large dull beige colored hummingbird moths. The female moth can produce up to 2,000 eggs, that's a lot of little green monsters. But my dad hated these caterpillars because of all the damage they created to the tomato plants. They were garden pests and he would smash them on the ground with his boot. I would collect some of them before my dad seen them and save them in a jar for more caterpillar gladiator fights .

Ladybugs are Good Luck

My dad loved the lady bugs and would let them be. These were natural predators of the aphids, a bug that would infest the rose bushes my dad grew for my mom. My dad said these bugs are good luck and not to kill them. I thought they were unique because it looked like a double set of wings on their back when they took flight. Looked like something out of a transformer movie as the colorful red and black dotted cover would lift and these long wings would sprout out. I was amazed at how well the wings were concealed.

Lady bugs lay their eggs directly in aphid insect colonies in order to ensure their larvae have an immediate food source, how cool is that. They're like transformers and body snatchers rolled up in one.