Noticing the unknown plant that grew abundantly in the backyard of my ancestral house, I used to wonder what it was used for. It grew everywhere like a weed but was mostly used by me in my pretend cooking games as a kid.
Back then, we were all forced by our grandparents to eat such home-grown herbs. However, little did I know that its uses were far more important.
The herb grows like bougainvillea in Kerala but still goes unnoticed. On the other hand, the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu cultivates it on a large scale and consumes it as a staple. The delicious Manathakkali Vatha Kuzhambu is quite popular among Tamilians.
As per the research findings of two scientists from Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), a compound separated from the leaves of Manathakkali or Black nightshade or Solanum nigrum contain medicinal properties that can cure cancer.
Senior scientist at the RGCB, Dr Ruby John Anto and her student Dr Lekshmi R Nath found that the leaves of Manathakkali contained the qualities to save human liver from the uncontrolled growth of cells.
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, as per the New Indian Express. According to Dr Ruby John Anto, there is only one FDA-approved drug available for liver cancer treatment whose effectiveness is much lower than this one.
The medicine made from the compound of Manathakkali leaves has already received patented rights by the USA, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The patented technology of the two scientists has been bought by the US pharma company QBioMed, as per Onmanorama.
Other than its cancer treating properties, Manthakkali is rich in calcium, iron, riboflavin and Vitamin C. It is known to cure mouth ulcers, constipation and urinary infections.
Another advantage of the herb 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 a few recipes you can use to incorporate this nutritious herb in your diet.
Manathakkali Vatha Kuzhambu (Manathakkali gravy)
Tamarind (lemon sized-soaked in hot water for 20 minutes)
Sesame oil (2 tablespoon)
Mustard seeds (1 teaspoon)
Fenugreek seeds (1 teaspoon)
Red chilly (2-3)
Asafoetida (a pinch)
Manathakkali (buttermilk soaked and sun dried, 3 tablespoons)
Sambar powder (1-2 spoons)
Water (2 cups)
Rice flour (optional)
- Add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chilly, curry leaves and asafoetida one-by-one to hot sesame oil.
- Add dried manathakkali followed by sambar powder and stir on low flame.
- Once the masala is fried enough, add the tamarind pulp along with two cups of water.
- Also add salt for taste and stir occasionally until the gravy thickens and oil specks on the top. This might take about 30 minutes.
- In order to hasten the thickening process, add one teaspoon of rice flour. Add half spoon jaggery for a tinge of sweetness and end the process.
This delicious gravy can be served with rice.
Manathakkali Keerai Koottu
Manathakkali Leaves (2 cups)
Moong Dal (3 tablespoon)
Grated coconut (¼ cup)
Turmeric powder (half teaspoon)
Cumin seeds (one teaspoon)
Red chilly (1)
Rice flour (1 teaspoon)
Mustard seeds (1 teaspoon)
Sesame oil (1 tablespoon)
Urad dal (1 teaspoon)
- Cook moong dal well, mash it and set aside.
- Grind grated coconut, cumin seeds, red chilli and rice flour into a paste and set aside.
- Heat oil and add mustard seeds followed by urad dal and curry leaves.
- Add chopped Manathakkali leaves along with salt and a pinch of sugar to cook well.
- Add cooked moong dal and grinded coconut mix and stir thoroughly.
- Pour some water to loosen the mix.
- Once it boils, switch off the flame and serve hot.
Manathakkali Keerai Soup
Mananthakkali Leaves (1 cup)
Garlic (3 cloves crushed)
Shallots (12 chopped)
Small Tomato (1 chopped)
Pepper Powder (1/2 teaspoon)
Cumin Seeds Powder (1/2 teaspoon)
Ghee (1 tablespoon)
- Heat the ghee and add garlic.
- Add chopped shallots and saute for a minute.
- Add manathakkali leaves and saute.
- Add tomato and salt.
- Add 3 cups of water and boil.
- Cook for about 5 minutes over medium flame.
- Finally, add pepper powder and cumin powder, mix well and serve.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)