She was shouting every few seconds “KHOBBEYZEH W ZAATAR!”, walking with a huge sack on both sides of her back; ran after her, told her to hold that thought, that I was a buyer, just had to get my camera.
She did’n’t wait but I was able to catch up with her. Bought 5 bunches of khobbeyzeh. She said she forages in the Chouf mountains in a clean protected area where the landowner trusts her. The greens looked fresh and vibrant. She said: ” What do you want to take my picture for?”
What is khobbeyzeh anyway?
It is a wild plant, from the same family as hibiscus and mallows (mauve in French). It was consumed for medicinal purposes in the olden days as it was believed to help digestion and to fight sore throats. It is like dandelion in taste. Eaten in salads in Lebanon with fried onions and a squeeze of lemon.
By the way, it is from the same family as mallows, from which the original marshmallow used to be made, before it was turned into a corn syrup, sucrose and artificial coloring candy.
I am finding out that making candy from mucilaginous plants goes back centuries since the Abbassid used to do it in the tenth century in Baghdad.
This recipe could be applied to any other green, such as chard or kale or dandelion or spinach or beet greens.
- 3 bunches of khobbeyzeh or swiss chard or dandelion or other greens
- 4 onions, chopped or sliced in rings
- olive oil, as needed
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup of golden raisins (not traditional, but it adds a nice touch of sweetness)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- salt, to taste
- Pluck the stems off (I used kitchen scissors); place the leaves in a bowl, fill with water and rinse several times to clean it well. Chop the leaves in ribbons ( I did not this time) and place with the water clinging to them in a large pot and bring to a boil; add the raisins and let simmer a couple of minutes until the leaves wilt and set aside. If a lot of water remains in the pot, boil it until it evaporates, watching to make sure the leaves don’t burn.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions; fry the onions till a golden-brown color. Mash the garlic cloves and add to the skillet alongside the greens and raisins. Season with extra salt if needed and about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice and toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature with lemon quarters.
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