Sunday, 12 June 2016

Wild vegetable called Bembe here in Curaçao

The soft, succulent leaves of Bembe have more omega-3 fatty acids than in some fish oils. If you are a vegan and pledge to avoid all animal products, here is the answer! Go for this healthy dark-green leafy vegetable and you can forget about fish!  

Botanically, this herbaceous leafy vegetable belongs to the family of Portulacaceae and scientifically known as Portulaca oleracea. Its English name is Purslane. There are varieties which differ in leaf size, thickness, leaf arrangement and pigment distribution. This hardy plant requires relatively little water and soil nutrients. It grows well in sunny climates. The plant grows up to 12-15 cm in height as a low-lying spread.

History of Bembe in Curacao
Nowadays no one is interested in consuming this plant and it grows everywhere and does well in this dry environment.
Here are some photos I took.


Health benefits of Bembe (Purslane)
This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories (just 16 kcal/100g) and fats; nonetheless it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Fresh leaves contain surprisingly more omega-3 fatty acids (a-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh leaves provide about 350 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. Research studies show that consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and help prevent the development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.
It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA) one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant and an essential vitamin for vision. It is also required to maintain healthy muscles and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Bembe is also a rich source of vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese.

Selection and storage
Wash fresh leaves and stem in clean cold running water in order to remove any sand and residues. After removing from water, mop it with soft cloth to remove any moisture in them before storing in the refrigerator.
Bembe can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days, but should be eaten while the leaves are fresh and not wilted.

Preparation and serving
The stems and flower buds are also edible. Trim the tough stems near roots using a sharp knife. Cook under low temperature for a shorter period in order to preserve the majority of nutrients. Although antioxidant properties are significantly decreased by frying and boiling, its minerals, carotenes and flavonoids may remain intact with steam cooking.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh, raw leaves can be used as salad and as vegetable juice.
Fresh, tender leaves are used in salads. Sautéed and gently stewed stems and leaves served as a side dish with fish and poultry.
It has also been used in soup and curry (Goni soppu curry) preparations and eaten with rice and ragi cake (ragi mudde) in many mouthwatering Purslane recipes in South Indian region, especially in parts of erstwhile Mysore province of Karnataka state.
Stir-fried and mixed with other like-minded greens such as spinach and vegetables, it makes favorite dishes.


Bembe contains oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1.31 g of oxalic acid, more than in spinach (0.97 g/100 g) and cassava (1.26 g/100 g). It is therefore people with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating such vegetables belonging to Amaranthaceae and Brassica family. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain normal urine output.