Winter rains bring foraging: loof

The winter rains started in November this year.  My mom keeps repeating that it is the November rains that make all the difference for the land and the trees.  This is the first winter that I have experienced in Palestine with the frequent November rains.  I planted my winter garden just in time to reap the benefits of this welcomed early winter rain.  Everything was in the ground.  Fava beans.  Spring peas.  Chick peas.  Onions.  Potatoes.  Spinach.  Arugula.  Dill.  The early rains in November gave these seeds a head start.  But most important, the early rains gave life to the wild flora.  Palestine has been noted to have one of the most diverse society of wild plants.    Last weekend, I foraged for loof, picking only enough for my needs leaving much in the ground to reproduce in the next years. I found the loof under the sprawled out old fig trees.  They seem to like warm, shady, and moist areas.  Loof, as many of the wild plants, provides many health benefits.

This link to an article provides more information on the science and benefits of loof:

http://archive.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=3988&ed=217&edid=217

loof

loof

I had loof last year for the first time at sharaka’s underground seasonal restaurant, Majhoul.  It was delicious.  When eating loof, most folks experience a tingling and numbing sensation in their mouth and throat.  But the loof at the Majhoul restaurant was prepared by seasoned executive chef, Amina.  I had no discomfort.  Only pure delight.

So I prepared the loof according to memory.  I tried to remember Amina’s instructions from last winter’s Majhoul.  Wash the leaves well, she explained.  Rinse them and wash again.  Rinse and wash again, and again, she repeated.  I tore the leaves with my fingers and soaked them in tap water.  I massaged the leaves in the tap water and rinsed them.  I repeated; adding the tap water, massaging the leaves between my fingers and rinsing.  I repeated three times.  I sauteed the dark green leaves in olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt.  I stirred periodically.  I added a sprinkle of whole wheat flour at the end, mixing it well into the sauteed greens.

It was my first time preparing loof and I was scared to eat it alone at home.  What if I had some weird reaction like an overwhelming tingling sensation that caused my throat to close.  I waited to have my first taste the next day at work.  If something happened, at least there would be witnesses.

I shared my jar of loof with my two office mates.  We all dug in enjoying the flavor.  One colleague thought that I could have cooked the leaves for a bit more time.  We chatted.  And then suddenly, I felt the tingling sensation on the left side of my tongue.  The side that I used to chew the loof.  Then my throat began to tingle.  I continued to feel this tingling for the next hour.

I must go back to Amina and find her secret to preparing loof.

How do you prepare your loof?  Please tell me in the comments section of this blog.

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