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. (
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.

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.

Jute Mallow…
Nalta Jute…
Egyptian Spinach…
Bush Okra…

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,, 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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To Love and To Nurture.

As an adolescent, I would frequently exclaim that I was not going to have children when I grew up. I appreciated that other people wanted them, needed them, and looked forward to devoting their every living moment to them, but that wasn’t going to be me.

A decade later, I was living an urban life with my husband when I suddenly got the overwhelming desire to have a child. After a lifetime of convincing myself that I would never be a mother, I now had to convince myself that I would not ruin this poor kid. Nurturing seemed to be so alien a concept to me, but it was going to have to become my focus.

Now I am a mother of two, and am often told that I am very good at mothering. I recently began to question where the desire to nurture was developed in my childhood. It now occurs to me where my tendency to dote and nurture had grown.

My first garden was put together with my father and sister in the desert, when I was six years old. My next one was near a neighborhood swimming hole in Louisiana. That was soon followed by a small garden in our trailer park there. Back in the desert, a year later, I didn’t have a garden so I found an empty wash and planted rows of corn. I carried buckets of water to the wash daily. By that August I had tall stalks in which to sit and daydream.

Many gardens followed those first attempts. By the time my first daughter was two years old I had my first large and successful garden. Hours were spent helping each plant reach its fullest potential. Patience, awareness, care, passion, advocacy and consistency were skills that I certainly learned among these plants.

My garden has been neglected this year because of so many conflicting family obligations. Here it is, late July, and I am only now ready to pick up where I left off last April. As I walk in and out of the now undefined rows I start to recognize the many baby sprouts, the many adolescent plants and the few mature plants all growing amongst a bevy of weeds. I suddenly have terrible pangs of regret, remorse and disdain.

All of the nurturing, the doting, the pride and the serenity that a mother feels was readily available to me with each passing gardening cycle. Starting with that first garden, and following through every year, I honed my parenting skills without being aware of it. I still have much to learn and to strive to be a better parent every day.

Now I recognize that my pastime is not a waste of time, but a necessity for the growth of my ability to love and to nurture. I look forward to repairing my garden today and perhaps learn a little more about my self and my children.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Have you ever...
snapped a crisp branch of purslane, directly from your garden?
plucked each delicate tiny leaf and nibbled away?
followed by the sensual bite of its branches luscious tang?

picked an heirloom tomato, directly from your garden?
sliced it thin, reavealing all its beautiful marble?
followed by the inevitable slurp of its luscious goodness?

tasted goat cheese, directly from the farmers market?
sneaked a pinch, a crumb, a chunk, on the long mosey home?
followed by the spread of it, across freshly made bread, in all its luscious comfort?

sliced slow roasted chicken breast insanely thin, directly from your oven?
sprinkled it generously with freshly ground pepper and freshly squeezed lemon?
followed by the construction of your sandwich, piled high, in all its luscious perfection?


Monday, July 16, 2007

The First Recipe for Critique

Thank you for taking a look at this recipe. It is a strong favorite of ours and good one to begin this critique process with.

Please get back to me as soon as you are able. I am eager to read about your experiences with this recipe.

Please remember that these dishes are meant to appeal to young children and small families on a budget so there will be few expensive items and no complicated gourmet dishes. Just good, reliable recipes that everyone can enjoy.

Chili to Fight a Cold
Tummy warming, sinus clearing, immunity boosting comfort food at its finest.

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes

Notes: This exceptionally nutritious chili improves each day, and depending on the cayenne you use, it may develop a more pronounced heat as well.

This recipe is easily quadrupled, could last several meals and can also be frozen for up to four months.

I recommend making it once and freezing three 4 cup batches for an easy meal once a month.

Serving Ideas: I like mine to have a topping of fat free sharp cheddar shreds and a dollop of fat free sour cream, but if you are congested you should wait until you feel better to enjoy it that way.


8 ounces Low sodium Kidney beans, canned, Drained (or whichever bean you have on hand)
14 fluid ounces Low sodium Tomatoes, canned
1 3/4 ounces Green Chiles
1 1/2 fluid ounces Tomato paste, Low sodium
6 fluid ounces Beer, light (If only being consumed by adults, otherwise use broth)
1/2 Sweet Potato, Diced, skin on
4 ounces Tempeh, Crumbled
1/2 tablespoon Browning sauce
1/2 Onions, Diced
1/2 Sweet Red Peppers, Diced
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, The hottest you can handle
1/2 teaspoon Paprika, Sweet, not hot
1/2 teaspoon Oregano, Dried
1/4 tablespoon Cocoa powder, Unsweetened
4 Lime Wedges
4 ounces Fat-free cheddar cheese, Shredded
4 teaspoons Fat-free sour cream


1. Stir together the beans, canned tomatoes, green chiles, tomato paste and 6 ounces of fluid in a large cooking pot.

2. Heat to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to simmer when it does boil.

3. Spray a large non-stick skillet with a thin coat of oil and lightly sear the sweet potatoes. Add to cooking pot.

4. Stir together the crumbled tempeh with the browning sauce. Saute on medium high for about five minutes.

5. Saute the onion and sweet peppers until semi-soft, with browned edges. Add to the cooking pot.

6. In a mortar and pestle combine the cumin and peeled garlic. Mash and add to cooking pot.

7. Simmer 20 minutes before adding all of the remaining spices.

8. Serve with an ounce of cheese and a teaspoon of sour cream. Place a wedge of lime on each bowl.

Nutritional Profile per serving:
232 Calories, 3g of Fat (4%), Trace of Saturated Fat, 6mg Cholesterol (2%), 333mg Sodium (14%), 802mg Potassium (23%), Total Carbs 33g (11%), Fiber 7g (27%), Protein 20g (41%), Calcium 362mg (36%), Iron 3mg (17%), Vitamin C 81mg (136%), Vitamin A 5960IU (119%), Vitamin B6 .4mg (19%), Thiamin B12 .2mcg (13%), Riboflavin B2 .3 (17%), Folicin 69mcg (17%) and Niacin 3mg (17%)