Located in the tropics, Nigeria is blessed with various types of vegetation. Most of which is put to use one way or another, in particular, a great number of these vegetations is put to use as a source of food.
When next you hear anyone say that Nigerian cuisine features little vegetables, beg to differ! In fact, Nigerian cuisine is based around serving a vegetable based soup/stew, with a carbohydrate rich accompaniment. Nigerian soups, and there are many of them, are named after the vegetables used to make them.
One of the many vegetables used to make soups, particularly by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, is the Ewedu leaves, also known as jute leaves, molokhia leaves (in Egypt and in other northern Africa), saluyot (in the Philippines and other southern Asian countries), Jews mallow.
Ewedu leaves belong to a plant of the corchorus specie, a shrub like plant with small dark green, glossy leaves. It is these leaves that are picked and processed into food.
The Cleopatra Connection
Based on its nutritional profile, I am well aware that ewedu leaves are highly nutritious. What I found more of a revelation from all my research into these leaves, is the fact that over 6000 years ago, its been documented that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt used these leaves as her youth enhancing treatment, anti-ageing elixir! No surprise there because the leaves are so rich in many anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. In Egypt today, jute leaves are still quite popular, where they are cooked and eaten as a rather thin, green soup..... molokhiya soup, served with bread or rice.
Its always really very exciting for me, to discover that foods of Nigerian origin, the same ones I grew up on, are actually consumed in other parts of the world, albeit in different manner. Equally exciting is the fact that these food are hugely accepted in these localities and highly sought after by others, for their nutritional/health benefits....! Interesting stuff!!!
Nutritional Data (Based on 100g of picked leaves)
Dietary fibre: 1.2g
Vitamins: C,E, A, Thiamin, Riboflavin
Minerals: Calcium, Iron
- Ewedu leaves are most commonly used to make soups in Nigeria. In other parts of the world they have been reported to be added to curries and served with rice.
- The leaves are also sometimes used because of their mucilaginous texture and added to soups to act as a thickener
- Dried ewedu leaves are used to brew a type of herbal tea which is drunk for its various health benefits. This is quite common in Japan.
- Rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium.
- It has also been determined that 100 grams of ewedu leaves contains an ample amount of Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and is also rich in fibre.
- Used to reduce wrinkles, it is also contains anti-oxidant substances.
- Used for anti-inflammatory treatment.
- Also believed to cure chronic inflammation of the urinary bladder.
- Manufacturing: The stem/stalk of the cochorous plants is also used in the manufacture of ropes and jute sacks.
- Health & Beauty: Ewedu leaves can be used to make face masks. Extracts of the leaves are also known to be added to beauty products such as creams and serums. Some food supplements are also believed to contain ewedu leaves extracts.