Siling labuyo: More than a hot spice

HOT red peppers have a peculiar feature—whether they are red ripe or raw green, they are popular for their fierceness.

When I was a teenager, I got amused seeing my relative just ate the “native” red pepper with his meal as if it were one of his viands. During that time I had no inkling why such a fiery crop would go with the meal of an individual just like an ordinary food.

The best thing we ever did with the fiery pepper then was to mix it with other ingredients to make a good “sinamak.” Then during the agro-fair in town we would sell it among other projects my Food Laboratory class would produce as our exhibits.

But when I studied Agriculture and when I became an Information Officer-designate of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, I got hold of many information that I appreciated so much even up to this time. Among these is the fact about “siling labuyo” in Tagalog, “tahod ilahas” in Ilonggo, or simply “katumbal” if we are talking of the fiery one which we call in English “native.”

We have lots of this native at home, although there was a season that I have asked from the farm of Mr. Ramon Peñalosa one ripe “tahod ilahas” and grew it in my own garden using a container.

At present only the native one is not extinct—we just let them be anywhere they grow—that’s the art of permaculture. I learned that from one organic farmer, Mr. De la Paz.

But what is it really in siling labuyo why I said that is more than just a hot spice? Siling labuyo thrives as a small, half-meter high, spreading shrub. (Although when given a rich soil, it can grow taller, basing from my own experience.) It bears red fruit rich in vitamin A, calcium, iron, and phosphorous.

In Mexico, perhaps the world’s biggest chili consumer, and in India, whose cuisine uses a lot of spices including chilis, very hot dishes are common.

The Filipino food, on the other hand, is made fiercer with the presence of minced siling labuyo especially in ‘kinilaw,” dished up with pure coconut cream, onion and garlic. We also love to eat “pinangat”–Negros Occidental style, especially by the food processors of San Enrique.

Besides the culinary uses, siling labuyo has other uses. The plant has been entered into the Philippine pharmacopoeia- a book, especially an official reference book listing the properties, effects, recommended dosage, etc. of plants.

Have you used already siling labuyo to cure your dyspepsia (indigestion characterized by nausea)? I tried it and because my gullet is not that galvanized it turned out into an LBM. What an experience!

It also acts as a liniment solution applied on the skin as a counter-irritant. Siling labuyo mixed with vinegar serves as an excellent stomachic.

Its infusion applied as lotion is good for skin disease. For rheumatic pains, warm fomentation using both leaves and hot fruit is applied to ease inflammation. Siling labuyo is a very strong rubefacient and acts smoothly with no danger of blistering.

In the advent of integrated pest management (IPM) technology by the DA and ecological pest management (EPM) by the NGO (I know from BIND), siling labuyo has been included as effective biological pesticide.

UPLB researchers found out that the fruit, skin and seeds of siling labuyo are all effective for ants, aphids, caterpillars, Colorado beetle, cabbage worms, warehouse and storage pests.

I do use it in my garden for ants and aphids. But it is not just good as pesticide. It is good also for diseases like cucumber mosaic, ring spot virus, tobacco virus, and other crop diseases.

Really, this world is filled with natural things that God has included in His creation for the benefit of us all!
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