Corchurus olitorious L. or Jute Mallow, Jew’s Mallow, Jute, Jute leaves, Bush okra (English) or Turgunuwa, Laalo, malafiya (Hausa) or Ahuhara (Igbo) or Ewedu (Yoruba): An underutilised plant with potential to alleviate malnutrition and poverty
The origin of Jew’s mallow is unknown, but it has reportedly been cultivated for centuries, both in Asia and Africa. It occurs in the wild on both continents. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. It is widely distributed in tropic and sub-tropic regions. It has been largely produced as a very important vegetable in arid regions of the Middle East and Africa. Jew’s mallow is produced worldwide in countries such as Egypt, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, India, China, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Nigeria.
It is a leading leaf vegetable in Côte d‘Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It is also cultivated as leafy vegetable in the Caribbean, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, China and Middle East. It is cultivated for fibre in Asia (India, Bangladesh and China). Jute is an erect, annual herb that varies from 20 cm to approximately 1.5 m depending on the cultivars. The flowers are small, 2 to 3 cm in diameter and yellow with five petals. The flowers have both male and female organs and are pollinated by insects. The fruit is a cylindrical capsule with many seeds. Fresh leaves and tender shoots are essential parts.
Jew’s mallow is an essential green, leafy edible vegetable, consumed in many countries. Leaves of Jew’s mallow are used for human consumption. Jew’s mallow is used as leafy vegetable.
Immature fruit is dried and ground into powder to prepare a sauce. Jute leaves are consumed in various parts of the world. The Hausa and Fulbe peoples also use jute leaves to treat some diseases. And the Songhay of Mali call it “Fakohoy” whereas Tunisians call it Mulukhiyah.
It is made into a common mucilaginous (somewhat “slimy”) soup or sauce in some West African cooking traditions as well as in Egypt, where it is called Mulukhiyya. Cypriots call it Molocha – and that refers to food – in terms of fibre this would be unknown – and it is sometimes eaten as boiled vegetable with lemon and olive oil. It is also a popular dish in the northern provinces of the Philippines, where it is known as Saluyot.
Jute leaves are also consumed among the Luyhia people of Western Kenya, where it is commonly known as ‘Mlenda’ or ‘Murere’. It is eaten with Ugali’, which is also a staple for most communities in Kenya.
The leaves are highly nutritious rich in proteins, vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, dietary fibre, and most essential amino acids. Jew’s mallow per 100 g of edible portion, contains water (83 g), protein (6.5 g), fat (1.0 g) carbohydrate (7.5 g), fibre (2.0 g), ash (2.0 g), Ca (488 mg), P (114 mg), Fe (11.6 mg), beta-carotene (7325 mg), vitamin A (1221 mg, after conversion from beta-carotene), thiamine (0.15 mg), riboflavin (0.28 mg), niacin (1.5 mg), and vitamin C (95 mg).
The energy value is 65 kcal/100 g. As can be seen, Jew’s mallow is a very rich source of beta-carotene (needed for defence against free radicals, eye and skin protection from dangerous UV light, stimulating body’s defence system), calcium (essential for the prevention of bone diseases, particularly osteoporosis in the elderly population), dietary fibre (important for proper functioning of the bowel, prevention of heavy metal toxicity, protection against cancer of the large intestine) and iron (needed for better brain functioning, especially in children and adolescents, prevention of iron deficiency anaemia, increasing physical performance).
The dried leaves of Jew’s mallow can be used as a thickener in soups. A tea is also made from the dried leaves.
Jute is very popular among the western population of Nigeria as weaning soup for children and good delicacy for adults. It is mostly known as a wild vegetable in southern Africa; still mainly collected from the wild and eaten or preserved by sun drying and eaten as off-season vegetable during food scarcity in northern parts of South Africa.
The increased utilisation of wild vegetables like wild jute in South Africa has been suggested as one of the ways to alleviate nutritional deficiencies and household food insecurity especially among populations with marginal or no income.
Previous reports on the nutritional analysis of the wild population of the species indicated that jute contained more nutritional qualities in terms of crude protein, iron, calcium and magnesium than cabbage and spinach purchased from public vegetable store in South Africa.
With increasing population and rising level of poverty among the marginal income population, unsustainable harvesting of wild population of Laalo is inevitable; especially when the nutritional benefit of the species becomes increasingly known among the people.
Root scraping and decoction of Jew’s mallow is reportedly used to treat toothache and as a tonic. Jute has been reported to be demulcent (anti-inflammatory), deobstruent (having the ability to clear or open the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body), diuretic, lactagogue (stimulates milk production), purgative (speeding up evacuation of the bowel), and tonic.
Tussah jute is a folk remedy for aches and pains, dysentery, enteritis (inflammation of intestine, fever, dysentery, pectoral pains, and tumours.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are used for ascites, pain, piles, and tumours.
Elsewhere the leaves are used for cystitis, dysuria (painful urination), fever, and gonorrhoea.
The cold infusion is said to restore the appetite and strength. Other uses of Jew’s mallow: It can also be used as a source of fibre.
Its fibre is strong and waterproof, making it perfect for the production of burlap sacks, furnishings and even clothing.
You can also read about Bambara nuts (Okpa) here
These are the thoughts and intellectual property of:
Sa’eed Halilu Bawa
Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad.
Studied Food and Nutrition Sciences, Dietetics at Kaduna Polytechnic, Nigeria; Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland.