'Feels like home': Growing Asian vegetables in Labrador makes Filipino farmer proud
Locally grown Asian vegetables a big hit with Filipinos in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
The greenhouse Nida Torio cultivates delivers a bounty of Asian veggies.
Bitter melon, long beans, eggplant and okra are abundant in the Philippines, and they are now being locally grown and sold by Spruce Meadow Farms in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the first time.
Torio worked as an agricultural supervisor in the Philippines, and also grew veggies in her own garden, before coming to Labrador 14 months ago.
She said it makes her proud to be able to provide vegetables to the Filipino community.
"It is fun that I can grow what I used to do in Philippines and I do it here in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It's good to provide Filipino vegetables for our Filipino community," she told CBC's Labrador Morning.
"They are really happy about that and I always get orders from them," she said.
Torio says the vegetables they're introducing — the farm sells them at the town's weekly farmer's market — are catching on with other customers, too.
"It's really fun that lots of other nationalities are trying Filipino or Asian vegetables," she said.
Marketgoers are looking for bitter melon greens, she said, which can be blanched and mixed with fresh tomatoes, fish oil or salt and olive oil to make a salad.
Meanwhile the bitter melon itself can be prepared by chopping it up into thin pieces, sautéing them and adding tomatoes and egg.
Figured it would be a big hit
It may taste bitter, but she says it helps to decrease cholesterol, as well as blood sugar.
The success of growing the Asian vegetables comes after Torio suggested to the farm owner that they build a greenhouse just for them.
She figured the vegetables would be a big hit with the Filipino community given that local grocery stores don't carry most of them, and it's worked.
They now have plans to expand the greenhouse for next season to be able to grow more vegetables.
There are more than 300 Filipinos in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and Torio says they have a big appetite for a taste of home.
"They are hungry, we are hungry. I myself, too," she said, laughing. The vegetables feel like home, she said.
"If you are cooking some Filipino vegetables and everyone is on the table and, yeah, happy to be … it's like, taste home," Torio said.