RT Cunningham

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Spinach in the Philippines

Tagged with olongapo city, philippines, spinach, united states on June 21, 2024

spinach Spinach looks disgusting when it’s cooked. It’s not the only leafy green vegetable like that, of course. Cooked taro leaves (called gabi in Tagalog) look just as bad. I haven’t seen any other leafy green vegetables that look like either one when cooked.

There are four kinds of spinach in the Philippines. I say “kinds” because they’re totally unrelated to each other, botanically. Regardless of which one I decide to eat, I don’t like it cooked in any way. I like raw, leafy green vegetables in my salads and sandwiches.


I’ve seen true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) sold at the SM grocery store inside the SM City Olongapo Downtown mall and so far, it’s the only place I’ve seen it. As far as I know, there isn’t a Tagalog word for it. My relatives call it spinach, in English, because they don’t know a Tagalog word for it either. Google Translate erroneously translates it as kangkong, which is a completely different plant.

As I said, cooked spinach looks disgusting. It doesn’t taste much better. I once went to a fancy restaurant with both of my adult sons in the United States, and our dishes included spinach. It took me great effort to eat it because I didn’t want to offend the son who was paying for it.

This is the vegetable that makes Popeye strong.

Kangkong and Alugbati

Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica) is called “water spinach” in English. It’s classified as a weed in the United States. I can’t tell you what it tastes like, but it doesn’t taste like spinach.

Alugbati (Basella alba) is called “vine spinach” in English. There are two varieties and I can’t tell you which one I’ve eaten, except that it has purple stems. It doesn’t taste like spinach, either.

I’ve had salads that included the leaves of both plants. My wife, Josie, or one of her sisters retrieved them from our backyard. We have all kinds of plants being cultivated back there, including fruit trees.


Kulitis (Amaranthus spinosus) translates to spinach in English from Cebuano, but not Tagalog. That’s as far as its relationship to spinach is concerned.

Regardless of the plants involved, and their names, I only want to eat them raw. Preferably with a vinaigrette of some type as my salad dressing. I don’t like adding other toppings unless I know they’re healthy toppings (like sunflower seeds).

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

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