Mulukhiyah or ‘jute’ originates from West Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. Its scientific name is Corchorus Olitorius and it belongs to the Tiliaceae family. Apart from ‘jute’, mulukhiyah has lots of other nicknames depending on the country: ‘mélonkie’, ‘molokhia’, ‘mouloukhiya’, ‘Tunisian mloukhia’, ‘ademe’ and ‘shimatsumaso’.
The plant has long been used in textiles, but also in cooking (usually the leaf). Many years ago, it was reserved for kings. Use varies according to country: in Asia, mulukhiyah is mainly used in textiles, whereas in the Middle East, it is mainly used in cooking. Mulukhiyah was widely used in France until the late 18th century.
Nowadays, jute is popular all over the world and is used everywhere.
Mulukhiyah has sturdy stems and is reddish in colour. Its leaves are oval, serrated and green. The distinguishing features of jute are its yellow flowers, cylindrical fruit and small greyish seeds.
A herbaceous plant, mulukhiyah grows in well-drained soil rich in clay, limestone and humus and can reach a height of up to 4m. To grow properly, jute needs excellent exposure to sunlight and shelter from the wind. It blooms from early June to late August. It is usually harvested from July to October. Its leaves are rich in chlorophyll.
The flavour of jute leaves is halfway between spinach and sorrel. This herb is popular in Tunisian cuisine, where it is called Tunisian mloukhia. It goes very well with meat (often in stews), soups and in various oriental dishes.