This year I was given the opportunity to join a wonderful community garden near my home. One of the garden coordinators happen to be a kind and very knowledgeable Liberian pa’pi by the name of Mr. Kamara. Mr. Kamara’s garden plots are the stuff of dreams. He grows a wide variety of Liberian vegetables and greens and has been kind enough to provide me with the knowledge and seedlings for my own garden plot. After stopping by for my weekly “lesson” on how to properly grow Liberian crops in this region and working on my plot, Mr. Kamara blessed me with a bag of freshly picked platto leaves and some seeds that I could use for my plot. This meant fresh palava sauce for dinner and the possibility of more to come. Needless to say I was both excited and very grateful.
Platto or Jute Leaves as it is sometimes called can be found throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia and goes by many names. Kren-Kre in Sierra Leone. To the Yoruba people of Nigeria it is known as ewedu and turgunuwa, or lallo for those in the Hausa-speaking region of northern Nigeria. In northern Africa and the Middle East it is known as Mulukhiyah, Molohiya or Egyptian spinach. In the regions surrounding Lake Victoria in East Africa it goes by several names Mutere, Murere, Apoth, Mrenda and Pala Bi to name a few. In the Philippines and other southern Asian countries it is known as saluyot. Plattos are even mentioned in the Book of Jobs in the King James translation of the Old Testament as Jew’s mallow. It is also a totem for the Ayivu clan in Northwestern Uganda. However, for Liberians, it will always be platto the main ingredient in palava sauce.
Believed to be first cultivated in Egypt, it has been documented that the legendary Queen Cleopatra used platto leaves as part of her youth enhancing, anti-aging elixir over 6000 years ago! Platto facial anyone?
No seriously! Because the leaves are such a rich source of calcium, beta carotene, vitamins C & E and contains numerous anti-oxidants, it is actually very good for the skin. The extract of platto leaves have been known to reduce wrinkles and serve as an anti-inflammatory treatment. In Japan, the leaves are dried and use to create an herbal tea which is believed helps control blood pressure & cholesterol and cure headaches, dysentery, stomach aches and ulcers.
Interestingly, platto leaves are more than just a meal and a possible facial. Because its fibers are strong, 100% bio-degradable, recyclable and waterproof it is perfect for making ropes, sacks, furnishings and even clothing. Plattos are considered one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in terms of usage, global consumption, production, and availability. Now that is one amazing plant and all the more reason to enjoy my palava sauce.
- 4 tightly packed cups of fresh platto leave or 3 -8oz packs of frozen platto leave
- 3 bonnies
- 2 dried fish
- 1 lb cow skin
- 1 cup shrimp (dried or fresh)
- 1 chicken (dried or fresh)
- 3 pods hot pepper (to taste)
- 2 bouillon cubes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- Seasonings (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper) – to taste
- 2 cups palm oil
- ½ teaspoon country soda (optional)
- If using cow skin, pig feet, goat meat or any other ingredients that require pre-boiling, place in a pot to boil.
- Pick leaves from stalk, wash and chop into fine shreds and set aside. If using frozen packs; make sure they are defrosted.
- Remove bones from dried fish and bonnie.
- In a large pot, create a seasoned broth by combining the bonnie, dried fish, boiled cow skin, shrimp, chicken, onion, hot pepper and seasoning; add enough water to cover all ingredients with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil.
- If using soda. Add soda to greens. Mix well [see Notes and Tips for more information]
- Once the seasoned broth is created, remove all proteins (meats, fish, bonnie etc.) from the broth and add chopped greens to the broth. Allow to boil for about 8-10 minutes.
- Add all proteins (meats, fish, bonnie etc.) to greens. Let boil until all of the liquid had dried out.
- Add palm oil and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary
- The finished product should be a slippery sauce. Serve with rice or fufu.
NOTES AND TIPS
- Any meat, poultry and seafood –fresh or dried-can be added to palava sauce. My personal preference is dried proteins.
- Add a bit of salt to the water when washing.
- Regarding the Use of Soda:
- Back in the day [even now] when our forefathers would prepare rice farms, various vegetable seeds were thrown in along with the rice crop which could later be eaten along with the rice. One of these seed were platto seeds. Because it was oftentimes the last crop to be harvested long after the rice crop was harvested, its leaves were hard and not very edible. Cooks would than add a pinch of country soda to the greens prior to cooking in order to soften the greens and makes it more palatable.
- Country soda is not the same as baking powder or baking soda.