Blessed day. It’s no secret that naturally-grown (otherwise known as organic) fruits, vegetables and provisions are good for our health but a lot of the time the nutritious value of the leaves springing from these same plants don’t get as much attention as they could. This wasn’t always so, but change in the name of what some call progress can bring selective memory loss about things that can make a difference for the better.
A lot of what most grandparents and some parents knew and did to address their general health and challenges along the way are now being “discovered,” bottled and rebranded as ‘new’ news, while many of us were raised on natural remedies using plants, roots, fruits, tonics, oils and spices found in the garden, kitchen, along a walk or at the shop. Today let’s walk through the ways to make use of 8 types of leaves I gathered from the garden and yesterday’s nature walk. A little note that all of these photos are taken in morning sunlight with no filter or digital edit so you see their tones and design like you would if they were in your hand.
This is a beautiful, versatile and edible gift that can be a part of a natural home remedy kit or used as a daily tonic. Aloes are used to detox or ‘clean you out’, strengthen the overall system, moisturize the hair, treat acne or skin challenges (mild rash or minor accidental burn, scratch or bruise – without a sting.) When you slice off the prickly edges and scoop out the translucent pulp (NOT the deep yellow-brown juice that comes out by the slice point – do not use or eat that) the clear-ish pulp can be:
— eaten, a 1/2 pinky-finger chunk a day (first few days if you’ve never had it before, might want to keep a bathroom in your line of sight)
- juice in a juicer with a sweet fruit or two. Aloes has a sharp (as in bitter) taste; the health benefits are the sweet part
- blended and added to your natural hair as a deep conditioner or added to a spray bottle with water as a regular nourishing and softening treatment. Aloe is a humectant (like honey) so it helps thick curly, wooly or springy natural hair stay supple and well moisturized
- thinly sliced, set in the freezer and applied to temporarily soothe itchy or irritated patches of skin
- blended as a smoothie ingredient
Tip: If you already sliced a stalk and aren’t using the whole thing one-time, put the rest in a plastic bag and rest in the fridge.
This is an exceptionally healthy seeded fruit with a pungent smell. It looks like a kind of small-hand-sized bumpy potato that’s ready to be picked when the fruit turns from green and firm to white-ish and soft to the touch. The fruit can be blended, naturally fermented as a wine to be taken as a tonic and I have yet to hear of anyone who can eat one jusso. Noni leaves on the other hand don’t have a strong aroma at all but they are full of nutrients, naturally glossy, supple in texture and can be used in a lot of ways:
- sliced finely and added to a salad
- juiced in a juicer
- steeped in hot water as tea
- steamed and filled with rice and veg
- slightly heated and wrapped around bruised or mildly irritated areas
- blended as a smoothie ingredient
Tip: Noni leaves – use within the first 2-3 days of picking, refrigerate in a clear sealed bag after or separate properly and set in sun to dry. They can get moldy when bunched together.
3. Paw Paw
Paw paw fruit is something you either really really like or really don’t. I find it delicious and the fact that it’s very nutritious and there are a few trees in the garden make it even better. Paw paw leaves “may” have anti-inflammatory properties and are considered helpful to regulate blood sugar, ease digestive challenges and enhance the skin and hair. The leaves are deep green, geometrical looking like small hand fans and they can be:
- steeped in hot water for tea
- boiled in water, cooled and used a natural hair rinse
4. Sea Grape
Sea grape is a actually a seaweed. To the eye it’s a shrub, bush or hedge that’s dry as a biscuit yet brings forth small juicy fruits each of which has a seed inside. The watery grapes (in season around October/November here in Barbados) are refreshing especially on hot sunny days since they grow by the beach or within walking distance of marshes, swamps, mangroves and ponds. Seaside shrub – sea grapes. The grapes are good for heart health, eyesight, blood sugar regulation, skin and hair health, reducing symptoms of bone loss and can help keep obesity at bay. Here’s a more in-depth post on sea grapes.
The ‘heart’-shaped leaves have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Aside from making a pretty tropical coaster for cups and calabashes, can be used topically:
- as a tea FOR THE SKIN to address any fungus challenges.
Soursop fruit is well researched and strongly considered to have properties that naturally treat many ailments. The leaves (3”-6” or so) are oblong and go from floppy and bright – almost fluorescent green to a more firm texture and deeper green colour. It’s better to pick and dry the more durable ones since the younger leaves can get mould if they don’t get enough ventilation when drying and they’re a bit wizened so pick or get the darker green ones. Soursop leaves have a gentle flavour (they just taste like leaf.) To get the benefits of them:
- steep in hot water and sip as tea
- add to room temperature water, soak overnight, remove the leaf and drink the naturally flavoured water.
Tip: When drying the leaves, set them spaciously in a basket or on a tray in a room temperature place or in the sun for a few hours. When they’re fully dry and crunchy (not crumbly) bag them if you want.
6. Sweet Potato
Another healthy food – “ground provision” or “provision” like how we call it in The Caribbean. In that group you get things like eddoes, cassava, breadfruit (doh mind they grow on trees, they’re filling like ground provision and the texture is similar.) When you boil them down with some coconut milk, fresh herbs and a bay leaf if yuh have one, that’s what we call “strong food.” That sounds so good I almost forgot today’s post is about the leaves that are good for the immune system Though sweet potato grows under the earth/in soil, the beautiful upside-down tear-drop shaped leaves spring up a above ground and these are edible, healthy and tasty in:
- soups and broths
- tea considered as rejuvenating during and beyond Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, getting over a sore throat, cough, congestion, nausea, worms in children and improving their appetite naturally
- sautéed and added to salads
- breaded and fried as a crunchy snack
Sweet potato leaves are high in calcium, carotene, Vitamins C and E among others and can also be used topically:
- applied to or wrapped around a bruised or swollen area
- heated and placed on an ulcer to drain ‘information’ out
Tip: These leaves are frail so try to use the same day you pick (ideally) otherwise they wilt.
7. “Leaf Of Life” / Wonder of The World
This bright green, wide, sturdy and supple leaf is making a comeback when it comes to interest. Every time a sistren passes by the garden they leave with one or two big leaves. Why ‘only’ that many? Well, one’s to wash and eat and the second is to set in soil because a whole plant can spring from a single leaf. There’s a 5ft one outside that sprung from a leaf that was kept moist in shallow soil. They don’t need a lot of attention to grow. ‘Wonder of the world’ leaves are edible and helpful to relieve coughs, congestion, mild pain in the forehead and more. Since I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I have to be conscious of how things are worded but there’s plenty research on it so when you get a chance check up on it. Here’s a more in-depth blog post on ‘leaf of life’ for you here.
Moringa seeds/nuts and leaves have been used throughout time as a natural vitamin. 7 times the amount of Vitamin C than an orange and 4 times the amount of Vitamin A than carrots, moringa has a barrage of nutrients for the whole body. The seeds are like powdery white softly crunchy nuts revealed after peeling off the crackly dark brown casing that holds them. They don’t have a strong smell but the taste has a ‘kick’ to it, similar to wasabi. (Tip: drinking a glass of room temperature water will literally sweeten the flavour when you have it right after the seed/nut.) Moringa is a natural water purifier – good to know in times like these and ones to come.
The leaves look fine and dainty like tamarind leaves (that would’ve been one to add to this post. When I get some on the next walk I’ll pick and post some here so check this same link in a few days for an update if you like.) The flowers are white and dainty-looking, they make beautiful functional bouquets. Moringa leaves and flowers can be used:
- steeped in hot water and sipped as tea
- added to smoothies, stews, soups, salads and broths
Moringa leaves and flowers have a distinct aroma but nothing to rev up for. You’ll get used to the nourishing unique flavour of those and the seed the more you remember how healthy it is. The trees is easy to grow and doesn’t need alot of water aside from rain water after the first year – year and a half.
Do you have another leaf to add to the list? Feel free to share; it may help someone else reading here (including me) to learn about more the things purposefully created and planted on land for mankind.
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