Molokhia, Corchorus olitorius
, is an herbaceous annual plant in the family Malvaceae grown for its edible leaves which are consumed as a vegetable. The molokhia plant is tall and is either unbranched or possesses few lateral branches. The stems and leaves of the plant can be dark red or dark green or an intermediate color. The leaves are oval and tapering with serrated edges. The plant produces yellow flowers and pods that contain the seeds. Molokhia can grow to a height of 2–4 m (6.5–13 ft) and is an annual, harvested after one growing season. Molokhia may also be referred to as jute, nalta jute, red jute or mallow and likely originates from Africa.
Molokhia plant in flower
Molokhia seed pods
Molokhia seed pod
The leaves of the plant are usually consumed after cooking as a vegetable. The stems and leaves exude a sticky gum-like substance (mucilage) when cooked, giving it a texture similar to okra. It is commonly incorporated into stews.
Molokhia typically requires warm, humid conditions to thrive and will grow best in deep, loose soils. It will grow well in sandy or clay loam with a pH between 5 and 8.6. It requires an average monthly rainfall of 75-100 mm. It is reported tolerate average annual temperatures of between 6.8 and 27.5°C (44.2-81.5°F).
Molokhia is usually propagated from seed and should be planted 20 cm apart, allowing 50 cm between rows.
Common Pests and Diseases
Depressed yellow-brown, water-soaked lesions developing on stem; lesions become further depressed and turn black and necrotic; lesions may coalesce and girdle the stem, causing it to break
Reduce inoculum levels by removing crop debris from field after harvest
Water-soaked brown marks on stem of plant; stem peels back at lesion to reveal fibres underneath; fibre layer is discolored brown; plant begins to wilt; white mycelial growth may be present on affected areas of plant
Remove infected plants; avoid overcrowding plants to promote air circulation; plow crop debris deep into soil; provide a barrier to infection by wrapping lower stems of plant with aluminum foil covering below ground portion of stem and 2-3 in above soil line