My crop protection professor used to say there are no such things as “weeds”. No matter how bothersome or undesirable a plant looks or smells, once it has a purpose or use, it is no longer a weed that needs to be exterminated. In fact, for Ilocanos some weeds are actually considered “vegetables” because they were proven to be edible and perfect ingredients for some bagoong-based viands.
When I was an undergrad in UP Los Banos, I always had a preference for my animal science courses. Since I was an Agribusiness Management major, I had no choice but to get an equal amount of crop science subjects. After the basic botany class, I took the required crop science 1A and 1B which taught me the basic stages of cultivation and modes of propagation. I had to learn how to plow my assigned plots, plant my seedlings, as well as water and fertilize them. I have to admit, I didn’t like going down into the rice paddies. I sank deep into the mud, sinking until my knees and was unable to move. It was like quicksand!
Plantation crops were different though; whether they were fruit crops or vegetables. I enjoyed watching them grow and bear fruit, and come harvest time, I can actually eat my organically-grown crops. It took me years to realize that I actually have a “green thumb” when I grew my own vegetable garden at our townhouse in Tandang Sora. The small parcel of land in our frontage was maximized by pots filled with basil, cherry tomatoes, chilli peppers, camote tops, interspersed with American roses and some succulents like aloe vera and cacti.
For city-dwellers who want to “go green”, this system goes well with recycling. You can actually grow your own plants from seeds you can dry out from kitchen scraps. Take note of this every time you cut some tomatoes, chilli or bell peppers, and calamansi – set aside their seeds before you start cooking the fleshy parts.
While I wasn’t as well-versed in hardwood growth as forestry majors were, I was familiar enough with some fruit-bearing trees which served multiple purposes in farms – whether as property markers, windbreakers, or to prevent erosion of steep, mountainous terrains. Nowadays, during my morning walks at Ecopark, I recognize some coconut, mango, santol, kaimito, langka and pomelo trees. With summer coming in a few more weeks, I see these plants slowly growing their fruits.
Again, here is where I appreciate recycling – organic parts like peels and rinds can go to the composting pit to serve as natural fertilizers as some future time, while the remains of eaten fruits are seeds which can be re-planted. This reinforces the idea that some things are not really trash or garbage because they still have uses.
As such, my morning walks are everyday reminders of these things. I have learned to value nature again, and to have a newfound respect for living things.