A quick visit to a nearby grocery or farmer’s market would tell you that some vegetables are insanely expensive, making any shrewd shopper reach for cheaper alternatives or change the menu at the last minute.
Most Pinoys have tight budgets, and because of that, they rarely ever get to buy veggies where the cost of one kilo is enough to buy several kilos of meat or fish. Nevertheless, some of these expensive vegetables are a staple in Filipino-favorite dishes, and substantially more nutritious in that no matter how expensive they may be, we look forward to having them on our dinner plates.
Meanwhile, many of these high-value vegetable crops or cash crops are a fantastic source of income for our local farmers, rural cooperatives and agri-business people. Because these vegetables command high prices in the retail market, they produce a promising yield and income for people working the agricultural industry.
Price Range (Php): 60 – 130 (retail)
Potato is a staple to many Pinoy favorite recipes, from mashed potatoes to afritada. It offers a soft, creamy texture that is more subtle than taro, and more neutral in flavor but less mushy than sweet potato or yam. However, when potato prices skyrocket, mommies can always substitute this root veg with either the ones aforementioned, or maybe carrots or sayote in stew and stir fry dishes.
Price Range (Php): 60 – 150 (retail)
We love string beans. We add them chopped into our sinigang, nilaga, and even in our basic sautéed vegetables. They taste great even with very little to no meat – a small amoung of bagoong or maybe soy sauce would surely make this vegetable a treat for the family on a tight budget. Plus, it is a legume, making it one of the most nutritious vegetables around. Runner beans may be an excellent alternative to string beans, but often command the same price.
Price Range (Php): 80 – 130 (retail)
Sweet peas are present in chopsuey and other quick sauté dishes. They add a vibrant healthy shade of green and a pleasant crunch to the dish, making it exciting to eat. Sweet peas may not be a staple vegetable, but when a typical Pinoy can afford them, they are sold in packs of a few grams in groceries as they are mostly used in small quantities. To buy them in large quantities, one must visit a public market.
Price Range (Php): 80 – 150 (retail)
Zucchini is a type of gourd or squash popularized in the movie, Ratatouille, being the main ingredients of the recipe of the same name. It is used in stir-fry dishes, stews, soups and grilled along with fresh pineapple, bell pepper and meat slices. A great alternative for zucchini would be eggplant, calabash (upo) or sayote.
Price Range (Php): 85 – 150 (retail)
Cabbage is one of the most common and widely used green leafy vegetables. It is a key ingredient in many stir-fries as well as a handy addition to soups like nilaga. It is also the main ingredient in coleslaw or cabbage salad, as well as in sauerkraut and kimchi. A good substitute for cabbage would be the native pechay, and when much cheaper, the Chinese pechay or maybe bokchoy.
Price Range (Php): 80 – 180 (retail); 6 – 35 (farmgate)
Like the cabbage, pechay is another vegetable commonly grown and sold in the Philippines. It tastes great in sautéed dishes, as well as in soups and quick salads. It is also widely used as garnish when serving fried dishes during banquets. The Chinese pechay may be more expensive, but it holds its texture and shape longer than the native variety.
Price Range (Php): 18 – 60 (farmgate price)
You might be surprised that broccoli actually belongs to the cabbage family. The plant has great resemblance to the common cabbage only that when it blooms, the flowers are clumped together, and is then harvested and eaten. The cauliflower is the cousin of the broccoli, and, both can be extremely pricey mainly because they require much attention during cultivation. A slight infestation can already cause great damage to the flower heads. While broccoli is great in making sautéed and steamed dishes, cauliflower is more versatile in that it may be used in soups and stews.
Price Range (Php): 60 – 95 (farmgate price)
Asparagus is one of the luxury items a Pinoy can buy off a grocery store. Because it is very expensive, it is usually used as a side dish – steamed, sautéed or grilled – alongside generous slabs of red meat steak or fish. It is very expensive because only a few countries produce asparagus, including Canada, EU, China and the US.
Bell Pepper/Sweet Pepper
Price Range (Php): 180 – 300 (retail)
Pinoys are used to the native bell pepper, also known as atsal, which are significantly less expensive than their imported counterparts, sweet peppers. Sweet peppers are the key ingredient in stuffed bell peppers, and make a great addition to vegetable stir-fries and even soups because of their pungent smell and slightly sweet, spicy flavor. Mixing different colors of bell peppers make the dish even more inviting.
Price Range (Php): 95 – 800 (retail)
Unless you are in the countryside where wild mushrooms grow during the rainy season and are up for harvesting for free, you can only have these delectable fungi off grocery shelves either canned, dried or fresh to add in your mushroom dish. A flavorful and versatile vegetable, mushrooms taste fantastic without meat, making them a vegetarian’s favorite. However, mushrooms are the most expensive vegetable around with prices reaching over a thousand per kilo. Canned and dried forms are of course a budget-friendly alternative, but if you want them fresh and affordable, go for oyster mushrooms.
One of the hindrances to eating healthy is the hefty price of vegetables. Still, Pinoys struggling to make ends meet can add vegetables into their meals because well there’s always the trusty malunggay, and its cheap but highly nutritious buddies – okra, squash and alugbati, to name a few.
However, for those who can afford, consider buying and experimenting with some of the vegetables listed here. Half a kilo of zucchini costs the same as a one-piece chicken meal, but it’s far more nutritious. And if you want to try French, go cook up some ratatouille, why it’s far more French than a bag of greasy fries.