NOTseeing the unknown plant that grew abundantly in the garden of my ancestral home, I wondered what it was used for. It used to grow like a weed everywhere, but I mostly used it in my pretend cooking games when I was a kid.
Back then, we were all forced by our grandparents to eat these homegrown herbs. However, I did not know that its uses were much more important.
The grass grows like bougainvillea in Kerala but still goes unnoticed. In contrast, the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu cultivates it on a large scale and consumes it as a staple food. The delicious Manathakkali Vatha Kuzhambu is very popular among Tamilians.
According to the research results of two scientists from Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology (RGCB), a compound separated from the leaves of Manathakkali or black nightshade or Solanum nigrum contains medicinal properties that can cure cancer.
Principal Scientist at RGCB, Dr. Ruby John Anto and his student, Dr. Lekshmi R Nath, discovered that Manathakkali leaves contain the qualities needed to save the human liver from uncontrolled cell growth.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now noticed its potential and sees a compound that can be isolated from the plant and used to treat liver cancer, according to the New Indian Express. According to Dr. Ruby John Anto, there is only one FDA-approved drug available for the treatment of liver cancer that is far less effective than this.
The drug made from the compound of Manathakkali leaves has already received patent rights from the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The patented technology of the two scientists has been acquired by the American pharmaceutical company QBioMed, according to Onmanorama.
Besides its anti-cancer properties, Manthakkali is rich in calcium, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C. It is known to cure canker sores, constipation and urinary tract infections.
Another advantage of grass is that it is available all year round. Manathakkali is a Tamil word and it is known by different names in Kerala like Mulakuthakkali or Karinthakkali.
Here are some recipes you can use to incorporate this nutritious herb into your diet.
Manathakkali Vatha Kuzhambu (Manathakkali Sauce)
Tamarind (the size of a lemon, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes)
Sesame oil (2 tablespoons)
Mustard seeds (1 teaspoon)
Fenugreek seeds (1 teaspoon)
Red pepper (2-3)
Asafoetida (a pinch)
Manathakkali (soaked and sun-dried buttermilk, 3 tbsp)
Sambar powder (1-2 spoons)
Water (2 cups)
Rice flour (optional)
- Add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, chili pepper, curry leaves and asafoetida one by one to hot sesame oil.
- Add the dried manathakkali followed by the sambar powder and stir over low heat.
- Once the masala is sufficiently fried, add the tamarind pulp along with two cups of water.
- Also add salt to taste and stir occasionally until the sauce thickens and oil spots appear on top. It may take about 30 minutes.
- In order to speed up the thickening process, add a teaspoon of rice flour. Add half a spoon of jaggery for a touch of sweetness and complete the process.
This delicious sauce can be served with rice.
Manathakkali Keerai Koottu
Manathakkali leaves (2 cups)
Moong Dal (3 tbsp)
Shredded coconut (¼ cup)
Turmeric powder (half teaspoon)
Cumin seeds (one teaspoon)
Red pepper (1)
Rice flour (1 teaspoon)
Mustard seeds (1 teaspoon)
Sesame oil (1 tablespoon)
Urad dal (1 teaspoon)
- Cook the moong dal well, mash it and set aside.
- Grind the shredded coconut, cumin seeds, chili pepper and rice flour into a paste and set aside.
- Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds followed by the urad dal and curry leaves.
- Add chopped Manathakkali leaves with salt and a pinch of sugar to cook well.
- Add cooked moong dal and crushed coconut mixture and mix well.
- Pour a little water to loosen the mixture.
- Once boiling, turn off the heat and serve hot.
Manathakkali Keerai Soup
Mananthakkali leaves (1 cup)
Garlic (3 crushed cloves)
Shallots (12 chopped)
Small tomato (1 chopped)
Pepper powder (1/2 teaspoon)
Cumin seed powder (1/2 teaspoon)
Ghee (1 tbsp)
- Heat the ghee and add the garlic.
- Add the chopped shallots and sauté for a minute.
- Add manathakkali leaves and sauté.
- Add tomato and salt.
- Add 3 cups of water and boil.
- Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
- Finally, add the chilli powder and cumin powder, mix well and serve.
(Editing by Yoshita Rao)