Molokhia leaves come from the molokhia plant, which is native to Egypt. Some sources claim that it was discovered by the Jews, possible in the era of the Pharaohs while others say that the plant is of Asian origin. The molokhia plant grows wild in both Asia and Africa but there are more species of the wild plant in Africa, which is one of the pieces of evidence that it originated on that continent. Molokhia is cultivated in both places and has historically been used both for food and for fiber. Fiber from the molokhia plant may be used for fabric, paper or to make carpet.
Molokhia can now be found growing all over the Middle East and even further afield such as in the Philippines and India.
In the 4th century BCE, the botanist Theophrastus mentioned the cultivation of molokhia in Greece. Pliny the Elder knew that Egypt was where molokhia was cultivated.
Molokhia leaves had a reputation as an aphrodisiac at one point. A caliph from the 9th century claimed that molokhia was a sexual stimulant for women and forbade his female subjects to consume it.
The name molokhia is Arabic and translates to the king’s vegetable or vegetable of kings, possibly because its consumption was once limited to the Pharaohs. There are numerous ways to spell the name including mulukhiya and molohiya. Other names for it in English include Egyptian spinach, jute mallow, and Jew’s mallow.
Molokhia leaves continue to be popular throughout the Levant but especially in Egypt.
Molokhia flavor profile
Molokhia has a flavor similar to that of spinach. It also has a distinctive texture because it is a mucilaginous plant-like okra. It is characterized by a high amount of mucilaginous fiber, a soluble fiber that makes it slippery.
Health benefits of molokhia leaves
Molokhia leaves have a long list of health benefits due to the nutrients it contains. Those nutrients include:
- Protein: Molokhia leaves have an exceptionally high amount of protein for a vegetable. Almost half of the calories in molokhia leaves come from its protein.
- Minerals: Molokhia leaves are rich in important minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium.
- Vitamins: You can get important vitamins from molokhia leaves including vitamins A, B, and E.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Even though their fat content is low, molokhia leaves contain a significant amount of omega 3 fatty acids.
With molokhia leaves in your diet, you can prevent certain health problems or treat them. Those health problems include:
- High blood sugar: Molokhia leaves have been shown to lower blood sugar, which can be beneficial for treating people with diabetes. Healthy blood sugar levels can help with heart disease as well.
- Inflammatory diseases: Molokhia leaves have significant antioxidant benefits and are effective for fighting inflammation.
- Lesions: Animal studies have shown that molokhia leaves protect against lesions in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Cancer: The antioxidant properties of molokhia leaves enable them to help fight cancer.
In Egypt, molokhia leaves are used to make a soup called king’s soup. The central spines of the leaves are removed then they are finely chopped and cooked with garlic and cilantro. Molokhia soup usually includes meat. Chicken is common but lamb is more popular. Many consider it to be the Egyptian national dish though versions of it can be found in other parts of the Middle East including Palestine, Jordan, and Iran. The soup may be poured onto rice or served with pita.