By Michelle Domocol
For many in Cebu, April is a time for family meals, Binignit, and Easter festivities. It’s also a great month to start planning a Binignit Garden.
Binignit (Photo 1) is a hearty, delectable dessert that features sweet root crops and fruits. Gabi (taro), camote, ube, cassava, kardaba bananas, landang, and nangka (jackfruit) are some of the natural sweeteners of Binignit. My extended family in Cebu proudly served delicious, homemade binignit during Holy Week meals. Honestly, outside of Easter, binignit is an eagerly welcomed dessert at any office party, birthday, or special celebration.
Planning & Growing a Binignit Garden
If your garden or farm has moist soil or a water body (like a pond), this can be a great site to plant some of the water-loving ingredients in Binignit. If you start planning in April, you’ll have time to gather healthy planting material like gabi roots and cassava cuttings. You can also prepare any soil amendments like vermicompost or mulch. With ample time for preparation, planting can start in May. You can design a waterside garden with gabi, ube, cassava, and camote. These sweet root crops adapt to partial and full sun exposure.
In portions of your garden with more well-draining soil, you can grow other Binignit-themed plants like nangka, kardaba, buli palm (aka landang tree). As these trees mature and grow taller, they can provide partial shade to the low-growing root crops. If you need ideas for more shade-providing agroforestry trees, check out “A for Agroforestry”.
Here are some more tips for your Binignit garden:
Gabi (aka taro) thrives in partial sun with constant soil moisture. In Cebu, you can plant gabi from May to July. Gabi prefers a waterside garden, pond border or site with wet soil. Make sure the soil is fertile. If your soil needs nutrients, amend it with vermicompost. You can plant the entire root or small sections of the gabi root. I like to plant gabi 5 inches deep. Then I cover the root with about about 2 inches of soil. If you have multiple root sections, you can arrange them 2 feet apart so they have room to flourish. Make sure to regularly remove weeds that compete for space and nutrients. They can ruin the development of young gabi.
Ube is another bountiful addition to your waterside Binignit garden. Like gabi, it loves the constant moisture and fertile, composted soil. I like to add mulch over the soil to increase organic matter and suppress weeds. You can mulch with dried leaves from surrounding trees, old palm leaves, or rice hulls. You can also adorn your waterside garden with decorative trellises to lift the trailing ube vines.
Cassava can be planted from May to June. Unlike gabi and ube planting methods, I plant cassava from cuttings. Cassavas thrive in a wide range of soils including moist soil. So they can accompany your ube and gabi. Ensure cassava is surrounded with at least 3 feet of space. They also enjoy full sun exposure cutting. If you’d like tips on growing camote, check out “Camote, February’s Featured Crop”.
Hope you enjoy your Binignit this weekend and Happy Planting!