Cat’s whiskers (Cleome gynandra L.) are a green leafy vegetable which grows as wild weeds all around Southern and Eastern sub-Saharan region of Africa. Colloquially, it is called ‘African cabbage’ or ‘spider wisp’.
Although it’s not a mainstream vegetable, it is a nutritive and staple vegetable in Africa. It is grown all around the world, especially in the drier regions. The plant is sensitive to frost and excess water though. In India, it is eaten like herbs in boiled dishes and used in sauces. In Thailand, it is consumed as a pickle called ‘pak-sian-dong’.
The plant is eaten raw or cooked. It is entirely edible. Its oily seeds are also used to extract oil. The extracted oil does not require further refining.
Cat’s Whiskers: Health Benefits
Cat’s whiskers are wonder plants packed with the following health benefits.
1. Roughage and foliage helps flush out the toxins and prevent constipation.
2. Vitamin A helps fight night blindness.
3. Improves blood profile.
4. Lowers cholesterol.
5. Improves memory retention.
6. Anti-oxidants prevent cell degeneration and helps improve immunity.
7. As an indigenous medicine in Africa, expectant mothers are fed cat’s whiskers to ease labor pains, speed up the process of childbirth, help regain strength post-delivery and
8. Preliminary findings indicate its prospective capability to fight diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and even cancer.
Cat’s Whiskers: Skin Benefits
9. Cat’s whiskers have amazing nutritive benefits as mentioned below.
10. They are a rich source of anti-oxidants aiding naturally glowing skin.
11. It helps your skin retain its pH balance and keep it nourished and moisturized.
12. Multiple vitamins and nutrients help fight acne. It is a blessing for those with sensitive skin.
Cat’s Whiskers: Hair Benefits
13. Cat’s whiskers add strength to your hair making them healthy, glossy and full of natural bounce.
14. It helps in retaining the moisture and pH balance on your scalp. Thus, it helps prevent dandruff.
How to consume?
One can eat cat’s whiskers in various forms – fried, blanched, sautéed, pickled, mashed etc. So, here is one interesting recipe for the popular ‘Pak-Sian-Dong’.
Recipe for the Popular ‘Pak-Sian-Dong’:
- Fresh leaves are plucked and rinsed thoroughly with water. They are further allowed to dry in the sun.
- Measure 1 kg of leaves and add 1 liter of water to it. Then, dissolve 50 gm salt and 60 gm sugar in it.
- This mixture is then packed tightly into a jar, sealed and left to ferment for 72 hours.
- Have them as pickle or add them to meat while cooking to enhance the taste.
Now, look at the multiple health benefits from this green wonder.
Cat’s whiskers are high in vitamins and micro-nutrients. They are perfect for a healthy balanced diet. They are rich in the following nutrients:
- Beta carotene and anti oxidants.
- Vitamin A and C, which is retained even after cooking.
- Calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
- Proteins and amino acids.
Aid to Sustainable Living:
The cat’s whiskers are a gold-mine for fighting malnutrition.
- Cat’s whiskers can be stored in its dried state for even upto 2 years.
- It can withstand extreme climates and can grow on drought prone or degraded soils.
- It is a fast growing plant. Given the appropriate conditions, it is ready to be harvested within 3 weeks. This helps assure food security for the backward population.
- When mixed with water, they can be used as a pesticide for relief from aphid and thrip population over crops.
- Easily available and highly economical for those with meager food budgets.
A popular English idiom reads “to be the cat’s whiskers”, which can be simply explained as being better than the rest. Now that you know the benefits of cat’s whiskers, you can really appreciate how wonderful and versatile this vegetable is.
Hope, it was useful. Please don’t forget to share your views and feedback in the comments section below.
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