Greens in Palestine
It is spring time and Palestine is full of greens that are very healthy and that are part of the traditional Palestinian cuisine. Food foraging was always an important part of the heritage of Palestinians. Izzeldin Bukhari, founder of Sacred Cuisine, looks for the stories behind the food. In this episode we talk about greens like hwerna, khobeza and mlukhiya. Where do the names come from, what are interesting facts and how do you prepare these greens?
If you want to participate in the QUIZ scroll down to the bottom of this page!
This is the full transcript of the podcast episode:
Kristel: [00:00:00] Hey Izzeldin. Because your sister just got married, you’re having family and guests coming over to visit the house?
[00:00:09] Izzeldin: To visit my sister, to see her before she leaves.
[00:00:11] Kristel: So now it’s going to be one less in the house.
[00:00:14] Izzeldin: Yeah, it’s just me and my mom.
[00:00:17] Kristel: Oh Izzeldin. You are the last sheep, but not the lost sheep.
[00:00:25] Izzeldin: Hopefully (haha)
[00:00:26] Kristel: Are they asking you now all the time? “Okbal eindak” they say right?
[00:00:31] “Okbal eindak”, exactly. I felt everybody had a great opportunity to tell me “okbalak” exactly. Yeah. I felt like “khalas, bikefi”. [Stop it, that’s enough]
[00:00:44] Kristel: You have the age!!
So Izzeldin, we talked couple of episodes ago, we talked about Sufism. And in that episode, we also mentioned shortly that you do something in your life that has to do with food. And that you are running ‘Sacred Cuisine’. And we also were talking about how much you can talk about food in Palestine related to the culture and the traditions, the heritage. And right now it is springtime in Palestine. I have to say that I’m not rather enjoying it because I have hay fever, stuffed nose, sneezing. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, sneezing. And I have itchy eyes and all of that. I love spring and I hate spring, but it’s a great time to go food foraging in Palestine. So I thought let’s do an episode completely dedicated to greens in Palestine. But before we jump into the greens, you should tell us more about Sacred Cuisine because the listeners, I think really would like to know what is Sacred Cuisine? How did you get to start with that? What does it do? What does it mean?
[00:01:57]So I started the Sacred Cuisine in 2017. And my purpose of creating Sacred Cuisine is to basically talk about the origin of vegan food in our culture, which we call ‘sawmi’. So the purpose of creating Sacred Cuisine was to talk about the sawmi food and the roots of vegan in our culture, in our cuisine.
[00:02:23]And it was just fascinating for me personally to discover the connection of fasting and food and it’s a very interesting aspect that through fasting and the philosophy of fasting, I was able to know more about food and understand food and cuisine in general. So this pushed me to create Sacred Cuisine as a vegetarian and vegan company focusing on celebrating these dishes and also talking about the story and the narrative of our culture, tied to these ingredients and dishes.
[00:03:03] Izzeldin: And also, as far as the Christian fasting, the lent where it plays a bigger role in the cuisine, the Christian fasting it means eating vegan, even if you eat meat. And even if you eat products of animals, there is this time, which is to break off from these habits. And it’s a cleansing time for the body.
[00:03:26] Kristel: So the concept of eating vegan food without using any kind of animal products was what inspired you to start with the Sacred Cuisine and what does Sacred Cuisine do?
[00:03:39]So Sacred Cuisine is a company, it’s focused on the pop-up concept and it’s with a pop-up concept. I do different events, which in each event we talk about different subjects, either sawmi food or raising awareness about the environment and also in Sacred Cuisine, beside doing events, I also do food tours where I take people in the old city of Jerusalem, and I show them as ‘eye of a local’ what the old city of Jerusalem has to offer from bite to dishes and ingredients.
[00:04:12] Kristel: I remember that you did one of your pop-up activities in my husband’s cafe, in Beit Sahour in Singer Café, and we had a very nice event where you did vegan sushi together with a Japanese woman. She was also a chef and we talked about how a lot of Palestinians are not aware that most of the food that you eat here, now there’s always a lot of meat and chicken involved, but it can actually be made vegan.
[00:04:43]Izzeldin: Exactly. And this is what I focus on in my work, is how we can, even if there is dishes with meat, we can still make it vegetarian.
[00:04:52] Kristel: And when we’re talking about vegetarian food, then we’re talking about greens also, and you inspired me couple of weeks ago, you had a post on your Instagram and you were using the green of reddish. And now we have a garden. And since actually the Corona pandemic started last year, I started planting more things in the garden, which is good. I think a lot of people did that. And one of the things I planted was reddish and I have to say that that greens of my reddish are more successful than the reddish itself!!
[00:05:28] I think it’s because I have a lot of stones in the garden, so they come out really weird shapes. It seems like they are not really able to find space under the ground. So I think I have to learn something about working the ground better, but I had so many greens. So seeing your post, I was so excited to realize that I can actually use all those greens.
[00:05:49] And I stir fried them with garlic and it was really nice. I made them into a salad. So that’s one of the things that I would like to talk to you about. But let’s start about food foraging, because when I started to read a little bit more about eating greens, and we will talk about the different greens that grow in Palestine and what can you cook with them, but the concept of food foraging, where you go into the nature and you just pick whatever you find in the wild. Is that something that is traditional here in Palestine?
[00:06:21]Izzeldin: Absolutely. In Palestine, the land and working in the land, allowed our ancestors to know, and to get introduced to the benefits of many different plants and the curiosity of our ancestors pushed them to try and find what they can use from this plant. And the best example is the loof. The loof it’s basically a plant. When you eat it raw, you will feel with little bit of numbness in your tongue. And it’s because it has an ingredient it can create like a poison.
[00:07:01]So our ancestors, they figured out by taking this plant and put it in hot water, you will be able to get rid of this ingredient and then it will be safe to eat.
[00:07:14]Kristel: If we were going to go out now in a nature area here around Jerusalem. What are the typical greens that we would find in spring? And what would you do with them? Can you just give us a few examples?
[00:07:28]Izzeldin: Right now, for example, ‘hwerna’, our beloved, ‘hwerna’, what’s called in English ‘hedge mustard’. It’s from the family of mustard and this family actually, the mustard family, it includes the radishes, the wasabi, the arugula, even the cabbage and broccoli and cauliflower.
[00:07:49]So this family is huge and the mustard seeds actually we know it’s coming from the mustard family, but in Palestine we have over here, the hedge mustard that’s is all around Palestine and what we know it as ‘hwerna’. And we take this plant and we mix it in yogurt, and it makes one of the most interesting dips, like as a dip with the yogurt.
[00:08:13]So right now hwerna is one of the plant that we see in season with a beautiful yellow flower.
[00:08:22] Kristel: I actually went to Battir to record a podcast episode, that I still have to edit, and we walked around with somebody from Battir there, Hassan, and he showed me this plant. And then there was a lady there who was selling some of the crops from her own plot of land in Battir, and I bought from her, and then I asked my mother-in-law how to prepare it. And that’s what she told me that I had to mix it with the yogurt. And make it into a dip that you can eat it with bread. I cut it up just very small and mixed it with the yogurt. Is that correct what I did or should I have cooked it or baked it before?
[00:08:59] Izzeldin: No, you don’t need to cook it. After you cut it, you put some salt and you let some of that bitterness minimize and lose some of that bitterness, with the salt. Then you mix it with the yoghurt and there is no need to cook it.
[00:09:16] Kristel: Okay. So at least I did that well, yeah, the taste came out fine, but it was indeed a little bit bitter and pretty sharp. My daughter told me, ‘bihrik, bihrik’, yani [that means] it’s spicy.
[00:09:26] Izzeldin: Exactly. This is where the salt minimize on that bitterness. So, if you have bitterness, you have to put some salt and you leave it for a little bit, and then you kind of squeeze it, get more of the liquid, give it a wash to lose some of that salt and then mix it with the yogurt.
[00:09:42] Kristel: Excellent. Very nice. Yeah. And what else? I think that right now, I see a lot of ‘khobeze’ also, or is it already the end of the ?
[00:09:51] Izzeldin: Yeah khobeze, actually one of the most interesting greens that we have in Palestine and not just in Palestine worldwide there is many interesting facts that’s come with the khobeze. The khobeze actually it comes from the family of plants, which includes cotton and okra, even hibiscus. And this plant family it created for us what we call in Palestine khobeze, which is known as mellow, but actually the marshmellow, it’s also a plant, that is part of the khobeze family. And worldwide we know the marshmallow as a candy, but actually, and the name marshmallow came to the candy, it’s because of the plant itself. The plant itself it was used as a medicine to treat the sore and the cold throat. So in ancient Egypt, they used to cook the honey with the root of the marshmallow and to thicken out and to get the mucus that’s coming out of this root.
[00:11:05] And this was used to be considered as a royal treat and the treatment only for kings. Now in around the 1800s it got introduced again in our word as a marshmallow of the candy we know. The purpose was to make a medicine for little kids to treat their throat when they have a sore throat. So they took mucus from the root and they mixed it with egg white and sugar. And they created the marshmallow that we know today and we love. But the fact that the marshmallow of today does not contain any part of medicine plant and any part of the marshmallow plant. It became more than just the candy, but that’s the reason why it was created.
[00:11:54]Kristel: That would have been better if I knew that there was some sort of health benefit to the marshmallows that my kids always want to eat. But right now I think it’s just a whole bunch of sugar.
[00:12:05] Izzeldin: Exactly. This is how you can see our world is upside down now because this used to be a treatment and now it’s a pure poison. It’s just sugar.
[00:12:18] Kristel: And in Arabic it is khobeze, does it have anything to do with khobiz which means bread in Arabic?
[00:12:24] Izzeldin: I heard some saying about the connection of khobeze and bread, and they say, because it’s everywhere and there’s so much of it, it’s like a bread.
[00:12:35] And actually during the 1948 when we lost Palestine and there was like, nobody can leave the house, there was like a curfew, and basically people didn’t have food. So Israelis and Palestinians, they used the khobeze to eat at that time.
[00:12:54] Kristel: So you mean that because there were curfews and there was not enough food they just went foraging and finding in nature the khobeze to cook it. Like my grandmother used to tell me in the Netherlands that when there was the war and at some point there was no food anymore also, in the Second World War I’m talking about, they used to eat flower bulbs. I don’t know how, nutritious that is, but khobeze is pretty nutritious, right?
[00:13:19] Izzeldin: It is and also they don’t really try to find it. It’s just everywhere to grow viciously. That’s why it’s even considered a weed plant because they think it’s just does not have any beneficial because it just grows effortlessly.
[00:13:35] Kristel: So, how do you prepare it? How do you eat it?
[00:13:38] Izzeldin: The best way to eat is to just sauté it with some onion and garlic garnish it with some sumac.
[00:13:45]This is one of the ways to use it, just to eat it as spinach. So this is like one of the most famous way to use it. Other people, they mix it instead, like the zaatar [thyme]with pastries and use it as a filling.
[00:14:00] Kristel: Did you ever try to roll like ‘warek dawali’ [dolma] with it?
[00:14:04] Izzeldin: I never tried. I think the leaf is kinda very thin for it to roll in. It will burst as the rice or the grain just expand, but I never tried.
[00:14:18] Kristel: Well, that would,that could be something, you know, like a new invention. But you’re right, maybe you have to wait a bit until the leaf is thicker and then maybe it becomes too much chewy.
[00:14:29] Hey, and let’s say we’re still walking around the mountain. We found us some hwerna, and we found some khobeze, but what are other plants or maybe spices or herbs that we would find at this time?
[00:14:40] Izzeldin: Of course we will find zaatar [thyme] we will find Sage.
[00:14:45]But it’s interesting to talk about borage. That’s the name for it I think in English, which we call it in Arabic ‘warek il san’ because the leaf, it looks like a tongue, the texture that comes on the leaf. It has like many dots. And you can feel that. This is one of the leaf that we roll and we stuff like warek dawali, grapevine, or cabbage leaves.
[00:15:11] And now it is the season where you see it all over in Palestine. And actually it’s a good source for vitamins and fatty acids and vitamins like B6 and B3 and a lot of iron as well.
[00:15:29] Kristel: Greens have lots of iron and vitamin C right?
[00:15:33] Izzeldin: Also vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium.
[00:15:36] Kristel: If you went out to buy this or to food forage it, what is the best way to keep it? Can you keep it long? Because usually after you cut something, then you know, especially leaves, it will quickly change the color or become soft or dry up.
[00:15:51]Izzeldin: These leaves because they are more on the thicker side, they kind of hold a bit more. So I would say they will stay like for three, four days, especially if you cover them with like a paper towel.
[00:16:07] Kristel: Oh yeah, yeah. That’s what I see my mother-in-law do, she puts paper towels also if she stores mint, the ‘nana’ and other herbs. Yeah.
[00:16:16] Izzeldin: I’ve been experimenting with cooking it as a stir fry. I just cut it to very thin strips. It’s really nice. And even a soup to mix it with soups.
[00:16:26] You know, I feel it is like the kale, like this is our kale in Palestine.
[00:16:31] Kristel: Yeah, exactly kale. That’s what we have in Holland. And that’s what I missed. And I actually, what you’re describing now, found it a few weeks ago on the farmer’s market in Beit Jalla, they have a farmer’s market and they bring stuff directly from the farmer. And I didn’t really know what it was, but it looked like kale to me. So I said, you know what, I’ll just buy it. And then somebody told me to sprinkle some olive oil on it and a little bit of salt and put it in the oven for 10, 15 minutes. Which I did and it came out crispy as if I was eating vegetable crisps.It was very nice.
[00:17:07] Izzeldin: You know this reminded me of kale chips, which I used to buy in whole food.
[00:17:13] Kristel: Yeah. And you can do all of that yourself. You buy in a health food store and you buy this healthy food in a plastic bag, but actually you just have to find your own, you know, greens or slice some vegetables very thin and just bake them in the oven. You can do it yourself, but we usually don’t have time. I guess this is the problem.
[00:17:35] Izzeldin: Exactly.
[00:17:37] Kristel: [00:17:37] What about green almonds? When is the time? I mean, I see the flowers. I saw the flowers. I saw the blossoms. And now I think it will start growing?
[00:17:48] Izzeldin: Yes, probably by the mid, end of this month, March, it will just start to have the almonds.
[00:17:56] Kristel: Can you say something about these green almonds? Because that was the first time I ever ate an almond from a tree that wasn’t a nut. I only know almonds, you go to the supermarket and you buy dried nuts. And all of a sudden they gave me this green hairy, it’s a little bit hairy on the outside. And they’re like, oh yeah, you should just dip it in salt and eat it. It was so strange for me.
[00:18:20] Izzeldin: You know, this is the season right now of eating green small things with salt. It started from the almonds to the cherry, to the palm [date] it’s actually very interesting aspect and a way to utilize the fruits on the different stages in their life span. So eating the almonds, everybody eats almonds, but few who eat the green almonds. Such as us, even as a Palestinian. So this shows me the depth of the way, how we utilize the land and the foods. It is not just about using the food when it’s ready, also find different ways and different experience to consume the plants.
[00:19:19] Kristel: Once I was served green almonds as a mansaf. So they made this soup that you make here with the dried yogurt. And so it becomes into kind of a sour, white thick soup, and then they cook the almonds in it. And so that was kind of the, maybe the vegan version of mansaf, I would say.
[00:19:40] Izzeldin: The vegetarian version, but
[00:19:42] Kristel: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. You’re right. Yeah. That’s not vegan because it has animal products. Yeah.
[00:19:47] Izzeldin: But you know, this is a good idea you gave me, to make it like completely vegan. Because I already made the recipe about the green almond cooked in the yoghurt and it was my first time cooking it and trying it. And it was lovely. I really enjoyed it.
[00:20:02] Kristel: Yeah, the almond is so soft when it’s cooked. It melts in your mouth.
[00:20:05] Izzeldin: And what I did, I kind of like give them a little bit of color. And a little bit of flavor before I added them to the yogurt. I just like sauté them before I added the yogurt and it is very interesting dish and I really like it. And this is like one of the dishes kind of falling from the table.
[00:20:25] Kristel: Yeah. I guess that there are lots of things that are not being made anymore. People are forgetting about it. Are there other greens that you wanted to talk about?
[00:20:33] Izzeldin: [00:20:33] Mmm. Other greens to talk about…
[00:20:36] Kristel: In Holland, we have the Dandelion, which we call in Holland, the horse flower. And that’s because horses really love this plant. So they eat it a lot. And then we think it’s a weed, but actually when people know that you can use them and that you can use them in salads, or you can use the greens. So they, they started, but in Holland, I don’t know that food foraging is such a big thing.
When we talk about food foraging, I have another question. I read in article that Israel’s Nature and Parks authority, made a list of species that are protected. And on this list is for example also Sage and zaatar and akoub. And so they say that it’s a threat that Palestinians are going around foraging these greens, and especially they were talking about akoub. Maybe you can say something about what is your opinion about this, that the Israeli authorities say: we are trying to protect these plants. Because they say that they are in danger, while it is actually part of the Palestinian heritage to forage for these greens.
[00:21:47]Izzeldin: Actually what’s really interesting in this law that these plants are not in a threat and they are not even closely to be in any kind of, because za’atar and sage, they grow everywhere effortlessly, and you can see the whole idea of this law, it is basically have to do things with the narrative of the Palestinian, especially when you’re talking about zaatar. Zaatar is one of our main ingredients that’s embedded in the Palestinian life style, not just in the food and this is like in a way to kind of disconnect the Palestinian from their heritage and like best example of this law.
[00:22:35] And even the whole creation of the restriction of movement on the Palestinians and the separation wall and the borders, to limit the Palestinians from moving around and cultivating the land. And you can see this effect on a tree that’s called ‘bottom’. Bottom, which is the species of the pistachio tree.
[00:23:01] And in English called the Terebinth Palestina, and in Latin, it’s called Pistaccia Palestina. And this is a tree, it’s a big tree. And it grows very small fruit, just like a pepper corn it’s called bottom and this nut, it used to be part of the ingredient in zaatar blends.
[00:23:27] When you make the za’atar, this is one of the ingredients you add into the za’atar and today, most of our za’atar does not include bottom. Just to kind of give you more depth of this tree. All the Arabic gum that we use, and we talk about the mastic, it is coming from the bottom tree. So this tree it plays a big role in our cuisine, but today this tree it’s very hard to find its fruits in the market, the bottom. Which is you barely can find it. And many people from the culinary world, from the herbal world of today, they don’t know about it. This is very dangerous because this tree play a big role in our ingredients. In the same time, because it grows in the wild and we cannot cultivate it because of the restrictions of the movement. It made this tree to kind of like falling from our shelves.
[00:24:31] Kristel: So Izzeldin you mean that the trees maybe still exists, but most Palestinians don’t have access to them anymore because they are located in areas in the West bank, for example, where they can’t reach?
[00:24:43] Izzeldin: No, it is still reachable, but of course it’s very limited. So it is not like it does not exist anymore, it exists, but it is not cultivated as before. And it’s not easy to reach it, which minimizes heavily on the amount of bottom in the market.
[00:25:01] Kristel: I know the name of this tree because here in Beit Safafa there was a big tree that was a bottom tree and it was behind our house and it was actually a sacred tree. This is what I heard from Ahmed who took us on a tour around Beit Safafa, which is an episode, I think it was episode three of this season, where people can listen back to it if they didn’t hear it yet. And he told us that, and I know this also from my history classes, is that there were many trees that grew very old and that became very important for the villagers or for the town.
[00:25:37] Even before that, for the nomads and Bedouins that would be going around, they would refer to a tree because you know, there was no house addresses yet that you could say, oh, he lives on this and this street. So it’d be like close to this tree, even from the Bible stories. I remember that Abraham he went to the great Oak tree of Moreh.
[00:25:59] So they even gave names to these trees and here there was a big tree, that they cut down. I don’t remember the reason, but they then build a mosque. And that’s why the mosque is also called Botma, because of the sacred tree that was on that location.
Kristel: I mean, I read, even when we’re talking about the Israelis, trying to stop people from picking collecting and foraging, in 2014, and I read that in the same article, there was even a 14 year old boy who was helping his family to forage for some of the greens. He wanted to cross the fence into Israel from the West bank because he saw lots of greens on the other side that he wants to pick. And then he was shot and killed. Just for food foraging. Imagine.
[00:26:47] Izzeldin: Yeah, this is the reality that most of our farmers live actually in Palestine. Just to cultivate the land they can lose their life. But, you know, I want to mention how za’atar and sage was dropped by Israel from the list. So it is not any more on the list as herbs in danger. And I think part of this reason, because you know, we, as a Palestinian, we talk about this issue as for us to cultivate the za’atar. So I think it added some pressure, which is Israel realized like we are talking about a herb that grows easily and effortlessly, and this is, we might sound like a joke.
[00:27:31] Kristel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I planted a small za’atar plant in my garden and I’m actually every year I have to cut it back because it keeps growing by itself. There’s no effort for it.
I did read about ‘akoub’, which in English is Gundelia, that when you want to eat it, you have to eat it basically in an early stage, which I think is always with greens because otherwise the leaves get more hard and they are more chewy and tough.
[00:28:01] So you have to harvest them basically before they start producing flowers and seeds. And that could be then of course, if you over forage it, then in the end, you may have a reduction of amount of plant. And what was interesting in this article that some scholars think that ‘akoub’, which is for people who don’t know, they can look it up, it’s in English Gundelia, it is kind of a thistle and it has a lot of prickles that you will have to remove before you can eat the stem. And they think that maybe this was much available in the time of Jesus, that this was the plant that was used to make the crown of thorns that was put on Jesus’ head during the passion when he walked towards his crucifixion.
[00:28:51] Izzeldin: Very interesting. I will definitely look it up and search.
[00:28:55] Kristel: So with Sacred Cuisine, that’s one of the things you do, right, is looking for stories.
[00:29:00] Izzeldin: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really interesting to look into the stories. How these dishes came to life. What’s the reason and what’s the narrative behind the dish. And always, there’s very interesting story behind it. And the first time I discover the story of falafel, it was not easy to discover. I was looking for some information for some time and I thought the falafel and the humus shops will give me the answer.
[00:29:29] So I was asking the owners of humus shops in the old city of Jerusalem, even I was in Jordan at that time. And also I asked some people in Jordan about what’s the story of humus and falafel you know, and people insist that there was no story. But even as a recipe and how it’s created, there is like a purpose behind it.
[00:29:52] It’s not just like something happened by mistake. To take the bean and soak them and then to grind them without cooking them. But then to deep fry them. So I thought there must be a story behind it and a reason behind it. And when I discovered that it’s the Coptic of Egypt who created it because of the lent and because of the fasting to have something quick, easy and fast, I was blown away.
[00:30:16] But the beauty of that story, the origin of the falafel, how it started And the same time, how much I was happy and delighted to know the story I was very devastated to realize how much of falafel we are eating and we consuming on a daily basis and how many of us know the story.
[00:30:38] So I decided to take this history and to expose it to the people because we are what we eat, but when we know what we eat and where it’s coming from, we are what we eat and we stand with it with a grace. And that’s where the story of dishes became one of my main elements in Sacred Cuisine and it pushed me into research through ingredients and food.
[00:31:08]And it is a very blissful path, that’s I can say, that’s the way how I approach it.
[00:31:15] Kristel: I also remember learning from you that originally Palestinian dishes were not made with rice. Can you inform our listeners? How did it come about that in almost all the Palestinian dishes right now, there is rice, but that is pretty new.
[00:31:34] Exactly. We in Palestine cultivated the wheat and we made the different ingredients from the wheat. So for example, our most famous grain is a freekeh. What is freekeh? Freekeh is basically a green wheat that’s picked when it’s still green and it’s fire roasted. And then we have the bulgur which is basically wheat that’s developed completely. But then we boil it and then we dried it and then we have jareesheh, which is just the wheat by itself picked and dried as it is. These are basically our grains. And rice, it was a delicacy. That some people can enjoy and it was very expensive, to consume rice and to eat rice.
[00:32:24]And the reason our cuisine in Palestine is heavily with rice right now, it is because of UNRWA and because of the refugees. And as a Palestinian being moved from their homes and moved to different cities or a different country, they became dependent on what the UNRWA provided for food, for the refugees.
[00:32:48] Kristel: UNRWA, for listeners who don’t know it,was the United Nations Relief and Work agency that was established, especially to support Palestinian refugees just after the events in 1948. It was a relief agency and they brought in the cheap rice to distribute among the refugees.
[00:33:08] Izzeldin: Correct. And that’s the reason we have a lot of rice and this is how it’s interesting, how we went from cooking mdjadara with bulgur to cook it with rice. And when some people you tell them, that the origin of mdjadra with bulgur, they are shocked that this is the root.
[00:33:28] Kristel: I’m part of a Facebook group, I think you are too, the Mama’s Palestinian kitchen. And there are sometimes people who ask, do you think it’s possible, or somebody said that I could cook mdjadara with freekeh. And I’m like, oh guys, that’s how all Palestinian mamas used to cook their mdjadra. But now people think that that may be strange. It should be with rice, but Oh.
[00:33:51] Izzeldin: You know, there was an article I’m a part of it, also Vivien Sansour, which talks about the origin of the Palestinian food. It’s written by Jasmine Zaher and it’s a great well researched article. It talks about the depth of the changes and how it became and the effect of the occupation on the cuisine.
[00:34:19] Kristel: We need to have access to this article. Is it online?
[00:34:23] Izzeldin: It is yeah. I will send you the link and you can include it.
[00:34:27] Kristel: I will include it in the show notes of the podcast. Yeah, because we need to know more about the cultural heritage. And I think food is such an important memory of who people are, and you said it, you are what you eat, and this is also culturally, you are what you eat. It’s part of your traditions.
Kristel: We’ve been talking really a lot about the food tradition and it’s super interesting. We have to bring this episode to an end, but I think that there’s one and let’s go back to the greens that we started with. There is one important green, and I’m sure all Palestinians all around the world will miss out if we don’t mention it. And that is …
[00:35:10] Izzeldin: Mlukhiya! Is that correct?
[00:35:12] Kristel: Mlukhiya is the favorite of my children. For me as a foreigner, it’s been a little bit hard to get used to it because it’s kind of slimy green soup that you eat with rice, but I think it’s the favorite dish of many people. Can you say a bit more about the mlukhiya?
[00:35:35] Izzeldin: There’s many interesting aspects about the mlukhiya. The mlukhiya it is part of the mallow family, actually. So it’s coming from the khobeze family and in Arabic, we call it mlukhiya, which they say the name originated from ‘mlukia’, which mean royalty. And this is very interesting because they said there was a King and he was sick and his doctor he asked him to eat mlukhiya as this was his medicine. So he starts to eat mlukhiya and he fall in love with it. And they say that he kept it for just the royal. And that’s why they call it ‘mlukia’ because it was eaten just by the royals in Egypt.
[00:36:24] Kristel: Wow. Even now you would say it’s kind of the ever day food. So it started off as a Royal dish.
[00:36:30] Izzeldin: Yeah. The name mlukhiya it is coming from ‘mlukia’. Mlukhiya, actually it’s more nutrient than spinach and broccoli. And it’s full of vitamins, especially iron, it is rich in iron and calcium and something actually very interesting I found in research I was doing about mlukhiya, that in Japan, there was a student he was studying in Japan and he was introduced to the mlukhiya. And when he moved back to Japan, he started to introduce people and scientists about the mlukhiya, and they loved it so much. And they created from the mlukhiya a juice that you can drink.
[00:37:18] They created noodles from the mlukhiya. They used it in creating cosmetic products, even they made it into supplement pills, which you can consume. And I think in 2002, they tried to say mlukhiya was a Japanese invention.
[00:37:40] Kristel: Oh yeah. The food appropriation, I think Palestinians suffer from it all the time.
[00:37:47] Izzeldin: I never expected to reach Japan but here we go.
[00:37:50] Kristel: Yeah, by the way, Izzeldin did you realize that most Palestinian dishes start with the letter M. Try it.
[00:38:01] Izzeldin: Wait, I just heard this recently. I think it was on the group. Was it on the group?
[00:38:07] Kristel: I don’t know. I remember once somebody telling me this and since then I’ve been repeating it to Palestinians and they all go: ah, maftoul, mansaf, mdjadara, maqloube, msahen, malfouf. Yeah, they are all like, how did that happen? Mahshee….
[00:38:18] Izzeldin: That’s interesting. I will look into it. I don’t know what’s the connection. The ‘mim’ [letter m in Arabic] maybe there’s the secret of the recipe. To start the name with the M.
[00:38:31] Kristel: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your knowledge and your insight. I know there is so much more to talk about. We didn’t even talk about the fact that humus before they dry it, is also green and we will also soon see the men sitting in the street with the humus and you can buy it and peel it yourself and put it in the oven a little bit.
[00:38:53] But yeah, there are too many greens to, to all discuss. But thank you very much. If people want to know more about Sacred Cuisine and what you do, where do they go?
[00:39:04] Izzeldin: People can go to my website, www.sacredcuisine.com. I will share the link, but they can follow Instagram for stories about the ingredients and dishes.
[00:39:15] Kristel: I will post it in the show notes so they can go there directly and see what you are doing. Definitely follow Sacred Cuisine on Instagram because it’s very inspiring. Thank you so much. And we will invite you soon again for another episode on food, because I think it’s going to be a favorite topic of many people.
[00:39:33] Izzeldin: It will be my pleasure as always.
Here are the photos of some of the greens that Izzeldin mentioned in the podcast. If you know the names of these greens, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
This QUIZ is valid until 1 April 2021. I will announce the winner in the episode of 5th of April
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