Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.
Names of Common Root Crops in Tagalog
Whether we're talking about home or backyard vegetable gardening or crop production, the following are the root crops commonly grown in the Philippines and sold in Philippine markets. When grown in backyard gardens, these crops provide meals for the family and can be a good source of income for those living in the provinces.
When I was a kid, my parents grew cassava, sweet potatoes, ginger, and vegetables on the farm's vacant lot, where we lived for almost four years. We always had fresh vegetables whenever we wanted, and Mom also sold them in the town's market for extra income. Sweet potatoes or cassava, when ready for harvest, make a quick, healthy snack too. You probably are familiar with those root crops, but what about the rest? What are the root crops commonly grown or found in the Philippines?
10 Root Crops in the Philippines (English and Tagalog)
- Jicama or Singkamas
- Taro or Gabi
- Arrowroot or Araru, Ar-aro
- Sweet Potato or Kamote
- Cassava or Kamoteng Kahoy
- Ginger or Luya
- Peanut or Mani
- Garlic or Bawang
- Shallot or Sibuyas Tagalog, Lasona
- Radish or Labanos
1. Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus)
Jicama is one of those crops that always reminds me of my childhood. Traveling back and forth from my birthplace, Zambales, I always see jicama vendors at the bus station, trying to get passersby and passengers' attention. Some would even get on the bus, offering passengers jicamas for sale.
Known as singkamas in Tagalog, jicama is a favorite with or without vinegar and salt. Its juicy, crunchy flesh is rich in A, B, and C vitamins, and most likely, you'll see jicamas available on fruit stands while traveling. It is also sold on skewers, usually with shrimp paste.
2. Taro (Colocasa esculenta)
Taro is a perennial plant usually grown for its tubers. It is a staple food of the African and South Indian people and is also cultivated in the Philippines. Taro is grown as a root vegetable in the Philippines, but the leaves and stalks are also excellent food sources.
In the Bicol region of the Philippines, laing is a well-known dish made from taro stems and leaves. The leaves and stems are sun-dried; leaves are shredded into pieces, while the outer skin of the stems is peeled off and cooked in coconut milk. The corms can also be added to this dish.
- The white to purplish corms can be boiled, baked, or roasted.
- When boiled or baked, salt and sometimes garlic is added as a condiment. Sugar and grated coconut (or just sugar) are used to compliment boiled taro, especially for those who like some sweetness in it.
- Taro is also added to pork or beef sinigang, which is a kind of stew.
- It is also used in Chinese desserts, pies, cakes, and as an ice cream flavor. For those who love bubble teas, taro is an ingredient. And there are chips made from taro too.
3. Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea)
Tagalog: Araru, ar-aro
The arrowroot plant, or Maranta arundinacea, is a smooth, erect, herbaceous plant that can grow from 3 to 6 ft. in height. It is cultivated in the Philippines for its rhizomes. Arrowroot, known in the Philippines as araru, is one of the root crops I was fond of as a child and enjoyed having for a quick snack in the afternoons at the farm.
Back then, the araru plant grew on the banana island where we lived, and I would dig up an araru plant when I spotted one for a satisfying boiled arrowroot snack.
Cooking and Uses
- Araru is often cultivated for its arrowroot starch.
- Araru is often boiled or roasted.
- It is also an ingredient for making cookies for infants.
- The roots, when mashed, are plastered onto the skin to treat spider bites and insect stings.
- Araru's starch is also used to starch clothes in the Philippines. I don't know, though, if this is still being used for that purpose. It is probably what my grandmother used in the past to starch clothes.
4. Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Sweet potato is a widely grown crop in the Philippines, not just for its tuberous roots but also for the young leaves. The tops and the young leaves of sweet potato are consumed as a vegetable and are often seen among other greens at wet markets and vendor stands. It is a favorite veggie ingredient in some Filipino dishes, such as the sinigang, which is a soured dish, and the Ilocano dish pinakbet.
The tuberous root is also an important crop in the country, a farmer's food, as they call it. With the tops as a vegetable crop, the tuberous root, on the other hand, is an easy afternoon snack that can be boiled or fried and caramelized.
5. Cassava (Manihot esculenta)
Tagalog: Kamoteng kahoy
Cassava is another major root crop in the Philippines. Known as kamoteng kahoy, this woody shrub bears tuberous roots rich in carbohydrates; minerals; A, B, and C vitamins; and protein.
Encased in a detachable rind is a firm, white, homogeneous flesh that is the main ingredient in some favorite Filipino desserts, such as the nilupak, which is made from grated cassava with condensed milk and butter, and cassava cake, which is also made from grated cassava, eggs, and coconut milk. It can also just be boiled for a mid-afternoon snack, called merienda, and served with shredded coconut or sugar.
In other countries, such as Indonesia, if not fried or boiled, the cassava roots are fermented and made into a cake. In Brazil, a crepe made from cassava powder is served with fruit jellies or shredded coconut.
Other Names for Cassava
- Manioc root
6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger, or luya, as it's known in the Philippines, is often used as a spice. Just like lemongrass, ginger is used in cooking to get rid of fishy smells and serves the same purpose in sauteing meats. It is also used in some other dishes, such as the pinapaitan of the Ilocanos, which is stewed beef innards.
Aside from its culinary uses, ginger is also a good herbal remedy and can be made into ginger tea, which treats colds and coughs. Some other products, such as candies, cookies, crackers, and the carbonated soft drink ginger ale, are also made from ginger root. Indeed, this root crop is a valuable and versatile addition to the kitchen.
7. Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
Peanut is another valuable crop in the Philippines. It is commonly sold at roadside stalls and markets, either boiled, roasted, or fried, along with other Filipino street foods. It is a favorite among travelers, especially while still warm.
Peanut, known as mani in the Philippines, is also a yummy snack when coated with flour. There have been a few peanut-coated products that I have tried, and two of them are Nagaraya Cracker Nuts and Mayasi. Peanuts are also used to make cooking oil.
8. Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic, called bawang, is a commonly used seasoning in the Philippines. It is used in many Filipino dishes, such as the soured fish dish paksiw, and with onion, it is often used in sautéing, as many Filipino dishes are sautéed first. Usually crushed or minced, with ground black pepper and some Thai chili in vinegar or soy sauce, garlic or bawang is used as a dipping sauce for fried, broiled, or grilled fish; barbecues; and meats.
Aside from the culinary usage of garlic, it is also used as an alternative remedy. From a young age, I have used a mixture of minced garlic and onion topped with honey to treat coughs, colds, and oncoming asthma attacks, as I had learned from my mother. It is also used in treating toothaches and is a good disinfectant.
9. Shallot (Allum ascalonicum)
Tagalog: Sibuyas tagalog, lasona
Shallot, known as sibuyas tagalog or lasona, can be found in vegetable gardens and even just in pots. We grow ours in pots, and they do very well. The shallot (and its leaves) is used in dipping sauces, along with diced tomatoes and with or without diced green mango. With either a mixture of soy sauce and lime or one's favorite fermented shrimp or fish sauce, it is a favorite dipping sauce for grilled or fried fish. The diced leaves are also used to complement the Filipino rice porridge, arroz caldo.
Taking up the last spot is my favorite, radish, which is known as labanos. Labanos is another popular root vegetable found in grocery stores and markets year-round. Some grow radish in their backyard gardens and consume the leaves in stews and soured dishes, such as the Filipino dishes nilaga and sinigang.
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precy anza (author) from USA on August 15, 2019:
@ Margie Isidro
Pasensya na po hindi ko rin alam ang toge na root crops na tinutukoy nyo. Ang alam ko pong toge ay mung bean sprouts or pinatubong munggo. :)
taro on January 17, 2019:
thanks for the information
Tom Wagner from Los Angeles on September 09, 2018:
Very well written and informative article. And here I was all this time, thinking that cassava was a melon! We'll be growing all of these on our farm om Marinduque... eventually.
kim malano on October 22, 2017:
does anyone here knows the percentage of gluten in galyang plant?
Jem Ma Rie on October 01, 2017:
Hi ! I'm a student at SEED Philippines where I am focused on studying and creating products from root crops. I would like to ask if you have a graph showing the different kinds of root crops here in the Philippines and what are their statistics. What is the most cultivated and grown, the most popular and least grown ?
Geri on November 24, 2016:
This is very informative!
Can anyone help me, I've been looking for the tagalog term for "Yautía / Malanga" (Xanthosoma Sagittifolium) and if we can find this at any local market or palengke.
Eloisa Batalia on October 24, 2016:
nice ! thank you for your information
Milanda on September 03, 2015:
what is the english of "karrot"...a root crop wildly grown in the philippines. It is poisonous if it is not thoroughly cleaned, washed in the river..
Justpassingby on April 27, 2015:
The taro in the picture is actually linsa which grow on land and the leaves are no good for laing but can be used as hog feed. The taro that are good for laing usually grows on water/wet soil and is called natong/apay/katnga.
precy anza (author) from USA on March 12, 2015:
Hi Mario :)
I've heard of lami before. Thanks for the heads up. Will add it on the list :) And so Is tuge.
Mario Millendez on December 31, 2014:
You did not mention a root crop from a vine called Lami in Tagalog. The root is peeled, chopped into thin slice and dried under the sun.Then it is soaked in salty water in sea or swamp for a whole day to get rid of the toxin.Then consequebntly dried again and can be steamed for a nice merienda with grated coconut and sugar.
Another Tagalog root crop is called Tuge and like ube is boiled in water for snack.What are they called in English?
precy anza (author) from USA on May 31, 2014:
Hi, where are you ba? :) My dad is from Bicol too. I asked him if he knew a root crop called bagong but says he hadn't heard of bagong before. But could it be "namu," "galyang," or "linsa"? How does it look like? Maybe he knew it in some other name. He's from Albay.
lhet on May 31, 2014:
Can you help? Looking for a root crop called "bagong" (bicol).
precy anza (author) from USA on April 01, 2014:
@ MG Singh:
Thank you! :) Glad you found it an interesting read.
Yes. And I remember I always tag along with my mom when she do groceries. Lots to choose from. I love jicama. Enjoy it with either vinegar or calamansi with salt. :)
precy anza (author) from USA on April 01, 2014:
Thanks for dropping by, and sharing the hub :) I know arrowroot powder but wasn't lucky to find arrowroot in stores in my area, I missed eating it. The jicama, it's crunchy, enjoy it with vinegar.
Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on March 31, 2014:
Great hub! Reminds me of the local farmer's market except, of course, the pic of the Philippine's market has a larger variety of roots to pick from. Jicama, ginder, and garlic are a few of my favorite! Hmmm...now I'm getting hungry. ; )
MG Singh from UAE on March 31, 2014:
Very interesting hub
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 31, 2014:
Never heard of Jicama though I'm aware of the rest. Also, the first time seeing Arrow root though we use arrowroot powder.
Very informative hub. Voted up and shared.
precy anza (author) from USA on March 30, 2014:
Been years since I've been to market like this, I missed the noise from vendors and smell of fresh vegetables and fruits too :)
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 21, 2014:
Root Crops Grown In The Philippines is an interesting hub the markets look so interesting with the many root crops.
precy anza (author) from USA on October 07, 2013:
Hi Avian :) Pleasure is mine for sharing them. Thanks for stopping by on the hub.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on October 04, 2013:
I have used many of these items in my own cooking, so I understands their great worth. For those that I didn't know about, this is wonderful information.
precy anza (author) from USA on October 02, 2013:
Yes. They are that many, and I hope I hadn't forgotten anything. :)
They do look like interesting, specially for those who doesn't see them often on markets. Well, that's how I feel when I saw all these other root crops on our local Ralphs market, crops I don't think I had seen before and that's where I got this hub idea. I'm planning to make a hub for those strange other root crops too that I saw.
Thank you both for stopping by ^-^
drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 01, 2013:
What interesting root vegetables, precy. Thanks for making us all experts in these native Philippine foods. And for including cooking details, too.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on October 01, 2013:
wow so many types of root vegetables available in your country