Thursday, July 19, 2007

Uncommon Etymology

There is a booth I always go to first at our local Farmers Market. It is run by Tom and Glenda Ponder from Gold Hill, here in Southern Oregon. They have a small farm, named Abbie Lane Farm, which specializes in uncommon fruits and vegetables. It was from them that I first tasted fresh jujubes, gooseberries, stevia leaves and bitter melons, all of which are a regular part of my family’s diet now.

Before I had chanced to taste any of the new foods, I had long been aware of them. From childhood I recalled hearing of jujubes and gooseberries and as an adult I had even tried gooseberry jam, but it was nothing like their fresh gooseberries. I had read of bitter melon in many Chinese dishes and I had seen powdered stevia on the shelves of my local grocer, but this time, there was something different. Something I had not heard of before, nor read of, nor seen, nor tasted. And that is why I love their farmstand.



They call it Moloukhia. It is a tender, dark green, medium sized, thin leafed vegetable that has a mild spinach taste and an okra mucilage. As a frequent consumer of both okra and spinach, I was an instant fan! I nibbled the leaves happily as I sat down to find a million recipes to use it in. Right away my glee turned into frustration as I started to notice the many different spellings and names of this delicate plant. I couldn’t, at first, find a balance of recipes to get a sense of how it is traditionally used. Just one, over and over again: Braised Chicken over white rice, with a ladle full of the Moloukhia on top.

With a plant that had such potential versatility, I knew there had to be more out there if I just knew how to look. I put on my researchers hat and began to seek it all out.

I started at Wikipedia, but found no matches.

I then Googled the word and found that the second result was for Chumley & Stella’s & Companies, run by Renee Aun. It is a business dedicated to encouraging people to utilize fresh herbs and spices in their everyday meals in order to obtain excellent health. (http://www.chumleyandstellas.com/ASpiceNEasyVegetablesMolokhia.html).
Here she listed some dishes that sounded delicious and listed alternative names for Moloukhia. Her description of the plant was much like mine, but referred to it as an herb, rather than as a vegetable.

Melokhia…
Molokhia…
Jew’s Mallow…
A Dish to Kings…


Now I had a start. I put in Melokhia into Wikipedia and Bingo…I got a match.

It took me directly to Corchorus, the genus, and it listed other alternate names too. Which lead me to google more and more names until I ultimately ended up with twelve names, regularly used, that represent the one word I started with.

Meloukhia…
Jute Mallow…
Nalta Jute…
Egyptian Spinach…
Bush Okra…
Moroheiya…
Saluyot…


With these new keywords I could now find thousands upon thousands of recipes and ideas for using the vegetable.

Then it was on to finding out the nutritional composition of the vegetable. Many references were made to how the vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, but few specifics were given. I went to my favorite nutrition database, NutritionData.com, and began the pursuit of their common name for this vegetable. Halfway through the list of names I found my match:

Jute, potherb, cooked, boiled without salt.

Aha, now that is a word I had heard of before. And man, is it nutritious! For a half cup serving of cooked jute you get an amazing 16 Calories, Zero Fat, Zero Cholesterol and Zero Sodium, 45% of your daily Vitamin A, 24% of your Vitamin C, 58% of your Vitamin K, 12% Vitamin B6, 11% of your Folate, 9% of your Calcium, 7% of your Iron and 7% of your Potassium.

Perhaps the reason for so many names for one special food is because it is so nutritious and so delicious that everyone wants to claim them as their own. I hope you too will get a chance to try something so good and maybe you too can create something wonderful to call your own.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, this would be more commonly known as "Egyptian Green Soup" in english. I was searching for the english name a while ago :D
It's most commonly eaten with rice and lamb or chicken. This is a childhood favourite of mine; I've been eating it since I was two.

^^

Auntie Andie said...

Thank you for letting me know. Now I can find another recipe for this amazing little veggie. It is so tasty, I can't believe it isn't a staple in more cultures. I still don't know anyone else in the US that eats this regularly. I think it is just perfect with every meat dish. I will try the soup very soon :)