The making of a Jew's mallow soup

in Natural Medicine2 months ago

Jew's mallow is a common name given to some species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae, Tiliaceae, and Rosaceae. However, not all the species bearing the common name can be made into soups.

One of the species bearing the name whose leaves can be plucked, chopped, boiled, and be made into soup is Corchorus olitorius. The plant that is otherwise known as Egyptian spinach, bush okra, West African sorrech, and jute mallow grows as a shrub of varying height (usually not more than 3.5 m) depending on the variety and the environment where it is growing. The origin of the plant is not well understood but it is known to be widely distributed throughout the tropical regions.

In Southwestern Nigeria, among the Yoruba speaking tribe of the country, the plant is popularly known as 'ewedu', which literarily means 'black leaves'. It belongs to the Tiliaceae flowering plant family, and apart from consumption, it is also a source of jute fiber.

Ewedu's soup can be prepared in a variety of ways. One of such ways is what I decided to share in my blog for today.

Step 1: Plucking of the leaves

The first step in the preparation of Jew's mallow soup is to pluck the leaves from the harvested stems. The leaves are usually plucked without their stalks in order to ensure a smoother soup.


Jew's mallow: before and after plucking of the leaves.

Step 2: Washing, chopping, and boiling

Some people would rather wash the leaves before plucking while some prefer washing after plucking. Either way, what follows is the chopping of the leaves into smaller pieces using a knife. Thereafter, a quantity of water that is commensurate with the quantity of the Jew's mallow leaves to be boiled is poured in a cooking pot.


Chopped leaves and mucilaginous appearance of boiled leaves

A pinch of cooking grade sodium bicarbonate is added to the water in order to quickly soften the leaves and increase the mucilaginousness of the soup. If desired, a commensurate quantity of locust beans is added to the water before placing the mixture on a burner and allowed to boil. The chopped leaf is then added to the boiling mixture and allowed to boil for some minutes.

Step 3: Blending and finishing

After checking and confirming that the leaves have softened, the next thing is to blend the mixture together. Blending can be done via a variety of methods. The first and easiest method is to pour the mixture into a blender and blend for just a few seconds. The second approach is a local one and it involves using a locally made broom to manually blend the mixture till the leaves form a fine mixture with the content.


Before and after blending

Thereafter, the mixture can be adapted to taste. Some people would add salt and other seasonings at this point while some will just use it just the way it is. Here in the Southwestern side of Nigeria, the soup is used in conjunction with fish/meat/chicken stew to eat amala, eba, semo, or other swallow foods as they are popularly known.

Benefits of Jew's mallow

Jew's mallow has been researched and found to have many medicinal and health benefits. The leaves have been found to be rich in proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nutritional elements such as potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. Apart from the leaves of the plant, the seeds have also been found to be nutritionally adequate when it comes to certain nutrients and vitamins.

Consumption of Jew's mallow has been anecdotally reported to be good for the skin, hair, and eyesight. Extract of the leaf contains abundant mucilaginous polysaccharide whose consumption has been reported to be effective in skin hydration. Some people actually hold the belief that the consumption of Corchorus olitorius soup is responsible for the beautiful skin and youthful looks of Egyptian Cleopatra and hence, the plant is given the name 'Cleopatra's secret'.

An investigation into the methanolic extract of the leaves showed that it has the potential to be effective in the treatment of hyperglucosemia and hyperlipidaemia and helpful in the control of obesity and hypertension. The ethanolic extract has also been investigated and found to have gastroprotective properties.

Jew's mallow soup also has the potential to aid digestion due to the mucilaginous property of the soup. Locally, pregnant women in labour are usually encouraged to drink a bowl of Jew's mallow soup because it is believed that it makes vaginal delivery smoother, perhaps due to the mucilage as well.

Thank you all for reading.


  • Idirs, S & Yisa, J. & Ndamitso, Muhammed. (2010). Nutritional composition of Corchorus olitorius leaves. Animal Production Research Advances. 5. 10.4314/apra.v5i2.49827.
  • Airaodion, Augustine & Akinmolayan, Joanne & Ogbuagu, Emmanuel & Airaodion, Edith & Ogbuagu, Uloaku & Awosanya, Olaide. (2019). Effect of Methanolic Extract of Corchorus olitorius Leaves on Hypoglycemic and Hypolipidaemic Activities in Albino Rats. Asian Plant Research Journal. 1-13. 10.9734/aprj/2019/v2i430054.
  • Yokoyama, Satoshi & Hiramoto, Keiichi & Fujikawa, Takahiko & Kondo, Hiroya & Konishi, Nobuyuki & Sudo, Shu & Iwashima, Makoto & Ooi, Kazuya. (2014). Skin Hydrating Effects of Corchorus olitorius Extract in a Mouse Model of Atopic Dermatitis. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications. 4. 1-6. 10.4236/jcdsa.2014.41001.
  • Al Batran, Rami et al. “Gastroprotective effects of Corchorus olitorius leaf extract against ethanol-induced gastric mucosal hemorrhagic lesions in rats.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology vol. 28,8 (2013): 1321-9. doi:10.1111/jgh.12229
  • Nutritional Evaluation of the Seeds of Corchorus olitorius: A Neglected and Underutilized Species in Nigeria
  • 12 Amazing Benefits Of Jew’s Mallow For Skin, Hair And Health

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I love the broom! I was curious about the name and so looked up a Jewish source to try and find the connection. I did find an article in the Times of Jerusalem, where mallow is described as "flourishing almost anywhere" , sidewalk cracks, etc, The plant is therefore for highly available. The recipe given in the article for soup seems to vary slightly-- lemon, onion and olive oil are added. Perhaps the plant used is a different variety of mallow. Anyway, new to me. And it looks delicious :)

In the era of automation, the broom is seen as archaic but some of us still prefer it over the electronic blender. There are many varieties of this species even around here. They are notably distinguished by their leaves. From experience, adding onions reduces the elasticity of the soup but I'm cool with olive oil. I've never tried it with lemon.

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