Tukod-langit is a kind of leaf vegetable. The name means something like “pillar of heaven” or, less poetically but perhaps more accurately, “support of heaven” in Tagalog. It has beautiful pink, red and brown thin, tubular stems topped with small, dark green leaves. They are, if memory serves me right, about as big as the more common kangkong, and about as firm in texture. Its flavor, however, is sweeter and more delicate. They are cooked in a saute of garlic, onions and fish sauce, and flavored with ripe guavas.
I’ve eaten this dish a few times when I was small. I remember it well because, as a child distrustful of vegetables, its flavor astounded me. It was delicious, and its name, tukod-langit, seemed to fit its sublime flavor and beautiful color. My mother told me that it appeared in the market rarely because it grew in the jungle and could not be cultivated.
After those few times that tukod-langit appeared on our table, I didn’t see it again. My mother said that she could not find it in the market anymore. It has disappeared. Just as the jungle where it grew has probably disappeared, overrun now by a burgeoning population, and just as the old market where my mother bought it seem to be disappearing, swamped now by the malls and oversized grocery stores.
Of course I might be romanticizing this simple vegetable. For all I know, it’s now available in supermarkets, packed in styrofoam trays and sealed in plastic.