Going to the forest to pick special vegetables

QUANG NAM – At the beginning of the summer, the young leaves in the forest are grown by the people of the mountainous district of Bac Tra My to bring home to sell or use in their daily meals.

In the morning of mid-May, Ms. Le Thi Thiep, 70 years old, in Tra Dong commune, Bac Tra My district, woke up to cook rice and then packed rice and food to prepare for a day in the forest to pick vegetables. “In the past, spinach was a plant to fight hunger of the highland people, often cooked with porridge to eat through the day. Now it has become a specialty, it can be processed in many dishes such as soup, stir-fry, boiled, and best of all, cooked with it. stream snails,” said Mrs. Thiep.

Mrs. Le Thi Thiep is about to pick a sage with more than 10 young leaves.  Photo: Son Thuy
Mrs. Le Thi Thiep is about to pick a sage with more than 10 young leaves. Photo: Son Thuy

Tie a plastic basket like a basket behind her back, Mrs. Thiep put rice and water in and then walked into the forest. Going about 10 minutes, crossing a 20-meter-long wooden bridge over the Cai River, she came to the immense green acacia acacia forest.

In early summer, there are often thunderstorms and a wet forest canopy. There were slugs and slugs on the dense vegetation, so she had to wear boots and socks to prevent them from clinging. The boots also help her grip firmly when moving over steep, slippery slopes.

Over 25 years of picking wild vegetables, Mrs. Thiep knows by heart the places where the vegetables are available. This vegetable grows wild in the forest, not affected by fertilizers and chemicals, so it is very clean. A woody tree, more than half a meter tall, with a base as big as a wrist, with many vertical branches. The leaves are as big as tea leaves, young leaves are dark brown like milk coffee, when old they turn dark green. The young leaves are smooth, and crushed, with the viscous and slightly acidic smell.

Like many other plants, the leaves come out in the spring. But the best time is early summer when the rains fall. Each branch produces from 2 to 5 years young leaves, each leaf is 5-8 cm long. Picking one tree after another full of herbs, Mrs. Thiep carefully wrapped them in a nylon bag and put it in a bag.

A coriander tree is producing young leaves.  Photo: Son Thuy
A coriander tree is producing young leaves. Photo: Son Thuy

In the past, in the forests of Central Vietnam, vegetables were abundant. But when acacia tree has economic value, people clear it, and burn it for planting land, causing vegetables to die gradually. “The forests near the residential area now only have a few places where vegetables grow, so you have to go far to get a lot,” said Mrs. Thiep.

After nearly an hour of climbing, wriggling under the acacia wood forest, climbing steeply making her legs tired, sweaty, and her shirt drenched, Mrs. Thiep found a place to sit and rest. Bringing a bottle of water to drink to quench their thirst, she brought vegetables to pick up old leaves. “Spinach can only use young leaves, old leaves are not delicious to cook,” she explained.

After lunch in the forest, she continued to search for vegetables until 1 p.m. and came home with a full basket. The house is located on an inter-commune road with many people passing by, so Mrs. Thiep just needs to prepare vegetables to sell by the roadside, costing 7,000 VND a bunch with a fist. At the end of the day, when all the vegetables were bought, she collected about 100,000 VND. At the end of the vegetable season, she switched to picking spinach, centella asiatica, coriander, coriander…

Pick up old leaves to get young leaves.  Photo: Son Thuy
Mrs. Thiep picked up the old leaves and took the young ones. Photo: Son Thuy

In the same village as Mrs. Thiep, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nhuan, 52 years old, has free time, so she goes to the forest to pick herbs to sell. Just pick up this layer of leaves, after 10 days come back to pick a new layer of leaves. Vegetables grow naturally, so whoever meets them picks them up. On many days, she earns more than 150,000 VND, a few tens of thousands a day less.

On the weekend, Mrs. Nhuan spends a portion of coriander to cook with spring snails. This type of snail is as big as a finger, clinging to the rocks in the stream. After a night of soaking the snails to release all the mud, she cut off the snail’s tail and boiled it. Finally, she chopped or crushed the coriander leaves, adding a little spice.

“When eating soft vegetables, like coriander leaves, the snails suck each other greasy, mixed with the sweet and sour taste of water, which is great,” said Ms. Nhuan.

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