Jute leaves are the leaves of certain jute plants, used as a food source in Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. In addition to adding a distinct flavor to food, these leaves also have nutritional value, and they act as thickeners in soups, stews, and sauces. They are also called saluyot or ewedu depending on the region of the world in which one is cooking. It is possible to grow jute for its fresh leaves in some parts of the world, and some specialty stores also stock it in fresh, frozen, or dried form, depending on their location and size.
Jute is a plant with many uses. All plants in the Corchorus genus are considered jute, although two have particular economic and culinary value, C. olitorius and C. capsularis. The leaves of these plants are simple, and they may have slightly serrated edges. When harvested young, jute leaves are flavorful and tender; older leaves tend to be more woody and fibrous, making them less ideal for consumption.
The stems of jute are used to make rope, paper, and a variety of other products. Jute has been used as an all purpose plant in Asia for several centuries, and Europeans were introduced to jute rope and textiles when they first began to explore India. Jute leaves, however, did not appear to catch on with European explorers. This seems to have been the case with a large number of Asian foods, as many commonplace Asian dishes and foods still seem quite exotic to the Western palate.
People who cook with jute leaves use them in soups, stews, curries, vegetable dishes, and sometimes tisanes or teas. The jute tends to get rather gluey and mucilaginous, like okra, another common vegetable thickener. It is also said to have its very own distinct flavor, which some people find quite enjoyable. Jute leaves are also a good source of nutrition, particularly beta carotene.
Like spinach and other leafy greens, jute leaves can be cooked whole as a major component of a dish, or they can be loosely chopped so that they blend better with other ingredients. Some cooks like to salt the leaves and rest them before cooking, to draw out some of the slime which can make them troubling to the palate. The longer they cook, the more slimy and dense they get, so it is important to pay attention to cooking times in recipes which call for jute leaves.