We’ve been having a little too much fun these past couple of weeks. First, there was the Madison Farm 2 Table dinner down the road at Prince Michel Winery.
I’m not sure which was more fun: Getting to hang out with all my farming compatriots and lunching on fresh crabs brought in by Robin Rider (because we farmers don’t mess around when it comes to lunch!), hearing our chicken complimented by a chef who uses Joel Salatin‘s chicken in his own restaurant in Harrisonburg,
or getting to take home all the yummy leftovers. Maybe it was just getting to see all us farmers dressed up.
Meanwhile we’ve been enjoying the harvest. And getting creative with the fruits of our labor. (Who knew that okra could be enjoyed au gratin in a casserole, stuffed with feta cheese, stewed in chicken broth, and served over rice, rotelli pasta, or quinoa? How about okra on toast for breakfast? Maybe tomorrow. ) But the real star performer of our first season is also the most exotic one: Jute Mallow. What’s that? Never heard of it? Well, maybe if we called it by its Arabic name, it would be more familiar: Molokhiya. Well, if you’re from the Middle East or North Africa it would be anyway. Or Japan. Because they love their “molohiya” there as well! Here’s a picture, if it helps.
I grew to love this stuff when living in Egypt, and Amir, being from Egypt, grew up on it. So we knew we wanted to grow it when we became farmers. We had no idea how well it would do in our climate in our soil, but now we do: It thrives! We’ve been bringing it by the bushel to our church, St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, where it is received lovingly and offered to the thousands of members with Egyptian roots who know exactly what to do with it. (Which is strip the leaves off the stems, cut the leaves up into tiny tiny little pieces, cook it in chicken broth for about 5 minutes, and stir in a whole mess of garlic sauteed with freshly ground coriander seeds and serve over rice or with pita bread.)
It is received a little more tentatively at the Madison County Farmer’s market, though I have been pleasantly surprised that the few who have ventured to try it usually come back for more. I was even more pleasantly surprised when an older couple at the market, after hearing all the nutritional benefits contained in this healing food, wondered whether they might just add it raw to their smoothies. What a terrific innovation! “This is the ticket,” I thought to myself. Because jute mallow is LOADED with iron, protein, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and dietary fiber, as well as other trace minerals and antioxidants. It is being studied for use as a staple food in African diets. Egyptian lore has it that it “cleans the blood” of heavy metals. I don’t know about that, but they are on to something about it being extremely healthy. And what other way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of a plant than to consume it fresh and raw, in easily digestible form?
Thus, I offer the recipe for the ultimate health drink. Like most recipes, this one doesn’t have to be followed exactly. It may need to be adapted to fit your local and particular circumstances. The instructions below are just how I do things here at Glean Acres.
Molokhiya Super Smoothie
1. On your way back in from watering the flock of chickens in the mid-afternoon, realize that your energy is lagging and you might benefit from a pick me up snack. Stop by your garden bed and pick off a few handfuls of molokhiya leaves.
2. Wander over to the melon patch and select the ripest cantaloupe. Pick a few pattypan squash that need picking while you’re at it.
3. Set the molokhiya and cantaloupe down in kitchen, grab a small bucket and take it along with the squash over to your neighbor, who has a ginormous blueberry bush. Present squash, and hold up bucket with inquisitive look and glance over at berry bush.
4. Run back to house to grab camera because you see exquisite swallow tail butterfly frolicking in berry bush. Take pictures.
5. Return to house with a little pail of blueberries and assemble ingredients in the blender. This involves scooping out a half of a still-warm-from-the-sunshine cantaloupe, adding the pile of molokhiya leaves, and topping off with two handfuls of blueberries, about a cup of water and some ice from the industrial ice machine in the chicken processing area.
6. Pour into glass and bring outside to husband, who is now coming off the field after checking on the chickens again. “Needs more sugar,” he remarked. Reblend his glass with sugar. Enjoy yours out on the deck, in pure unadulterated form.
7. Drink up the Good Life while taking in the view of Thoroughfare Mountain and watering the broccoli and cabbage seedlings in their little starter trays. Ponder the marketing opportunities. Feel remarkably better in the morning due to superfood smoothie! Post gratuitous picture of Marilyn, the laying hen, perching on her coop.