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Saluyot (Jute Leaves): Cleopatra’s Anti-aging Secret

It doesn’t have the prettiest name in the world. Even from the auditory standards of a native Filipino speaker like me, saluyot conjures images of something dark and musty and… Okay, maybe, I’m biased because saluyot sounds similar to kuyukot and I can’t shake off the association, even if only imaginary.

The first time I heard of saluyot was from one of the office secretaries. I overheard a group talking about what they had in their packed lunch boxes, one mentioned saluyot, I stopped, looked at her questioningly and she asked amusedly if I hadn’t heard of saluyot. A vegetable, she said, that’s very inexpensive. I asked her what it tasted like but she described the texture instead. Slimy, she said.

Fast forward to yesterday, we were at the grocery, I found bags of saluyot and I debated whether or not to try it. We’ve been trying to eat more vegetables than meat over the past few weeks and, honestly, I’m running out of vegetable dishes to feed my family. We have a rather limited repertoire of vegetables in the house partly because we’ve been mostly carnivorous most of our lives and also because there are so many vegetables that we’re not really familiar with and haven’t tried. Why not saluyot? I’m okay with slimy vegetables — I love okra, don’t I? I showed the bag of saluyot to Speedy, I said we should try a small bag and, if we don’t like it, we don’t have to buy another bag again.

Saluyot refers to the leaves of the Corchorus plant, often known as jute because the fibers are spun into strong threads and ropes. The fiber is now also used for making clothes.

The edible part of the plant is the leaves. They are slimy and they can turn bitter especially if overcooked. Known in Egypt as mulukhiyah (or is it moloukia?), the leaves of the Corchorus has long formed part of the diet of many African and Middle Eastern countries.

So, the saluyot leaves are slimy and a bit bitter. Not ampalaya-bitter but more like chili leaves. If you can eat chili leaves in your tinola, you can eat saluyot. Do they have a positive side? Well, they don’t taste bad, to begin with. The sliminess may take a little getting used to just like learning to develop an affinity with okra. And once you acquire the taste for it and start consuming it regularly, the health benefits really far outweigh the sliminess and subtle bitterness.

The recent popularity of saluyot has to do with how the leaves are marketed for their alleged anti-aging properties. Cleopatra, probably one of the most vain women in history, supposedly ate a lot of saluyot during her lifetime. But saluyot isn’t just for the vain — the leaves have a medicinal use apart from being a good source of daily vitamins and minerals.

The Philippines Department of Agriculture promotes saluyot leaves as food that offers benefits fresh or dried. They are rich in vitamin E and also contain vitamin A and C. All three nutrients are antioxidants that protect your cells from disease-causing molecules known as free radicals. The antioxidants in saluyot may sharpen vision, fight arthritis and improve fertility. [Read more: What Are the Benefits of Dried Saluyot Leaves?]

How are saluyot leaves cooked? Here are some examples.

Delicious Saluyot (Jute Leaves) Fritters

And how did I cook the saluyot that I bought yesterday? A soup dish. With spinach and pork.