The winding road
It’s 1986. We are out for a walk, accompanied by occasional glimpses of a chilly sun. Our boots get a few centimeters high “mud heels”. We find it funny. 9 year old kids. The mud builds up on our feet making us really tall in our identical, black or blue rubber boots. Irit explains how to pick nettles. She hands out gloves that are much too big for our hands, her soft words are guiding us as her red curls light up the greyish road darkened by the clouds. I’m thinking about the way back...the children’s commune kitchen* is waiting for me.
Excited, I take off the muddy boots, carelessly wash my little hands, a quick pee with an open door, that kind of shamelessness is in my nature. I put on the tiny gloves and proceed to chop off the nettles’ prickly edges and wash the mallow leaves. I quickly mix everything with an egg, add a little bit of flour, pepper and salt, make patties and put them in the pan. I’m a maker, playing with the greens I gathered myself, standing in front of the gas stove, on a small wooden chair, whose orange edges are peeling off. It was there I felt the warmth in my heart.
About 30 years later… I’m following the charming trail between kibbutz Shamir and Kfar Szold. It once would have taken a few hours, today my steps have grown bigger and the path looks shorter and narrower. Overflowing mallow and nettles outline the path on both sides. Naturally, I didn’t bring gloves or scissors. Sadly, I give up greens-picking, and instead buy four bunches of mallow in Tamra, a village close to my new home. After one challenging look at the nettles I decide to pass this time; I’ll go nettle picking with the kids later, near home.
My weakened body made me buy so much mallow. The neverending breastfeeding of the third child, work, moving to a new country and the newbound, shifting love have all exhausted my body. Mallow leaves cleanse and strengthen the digestive system, the earth, the centre, and I really need it.
Mud stains slowly fill the sink, thick stems are torn off and get scattered around. I chop the leaves, putting some aside for a healthy green omelette for my man and the kids, season, rub them a little and make mallow patties. I put them in a small pyrex box adorned with flowers that used to be my grandmother’s; half for me and half for a patient of mine, whom I love and who has lately exhausted her strength. I get in the car and head straight towards the winding road leading to the kibbutz.
20 years after I’ve left the kibbutz I find solace in treating the people there. There is something exciting and comforting in treating people in the place where I grew up, and it fills my heart with love. As I follow the road ascending towards the kibbutz my heart opens up. It’s the same smell, the same dry wind, the people that have been a part of my life, most of them are there as though time has stood still. Once a week I come to the kibbutz; I count my steps from the children’s commune to the yard that was a haven of secrets and friendships, and I daydream. In my mind I can hear our conversation about first love and the first kiss. On our way to Ada’s library we swore to tell each other everything, knowing there’s still a secret out there. We talked about things that will be, things we didn’t yet know. Giggling, we made a pact to reveal everything to each other...
*communal child rearing used to be prevalent in kibbutzim.
mallow** patties Recipe
A large bag of mallow leaves, washed and coarsely chopped, including stems. Pick the smaller plants - they are more sweet and tasty.
2 organic eggs
4-6 Tbsp flour or breadcrumbs
¼ tsp turmeric,1 tsp sumac
1 onion, coarsely chopped and fried in olive oil
Olive oil for frying
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Place spoonfuls of the mixture in the skillet and fry for about 5 min or until golden, flipping sides after about 3 min.
Alternatively, they can also be baked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C, make patties, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 15 min or until golden.
**(Can't find mallow? You can substitute it with any green leaves like spinach, Swiss chard etc.)
Another recipe I tried lately was inspired by Oren Rahmani, a beloved Chinese medicine healer. I made pesto with mallow leaves instead of basil. Fill the food processor bowl with mallow leaves, add ⅓ cup olive oil, a handful of pine nuts or almonds, grated Parmesan cheese to taste, a little salt. Pulse everything until desired consistency. Adjust seasoning. Perfection!
Why eat mallow and who will benefit from it? The mallow plant (‘hubeza’ or ‘hilmit’ in Hebrew) is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, anti-inflammatory, great for skin problems, sore throat and gastric disorders. Mallow strengthens the stomach; therefore, I’d recommend it to people who have a weak digestive system. The plant is also rich in vitamins A, C and folic acid; it’s an anti-oxidant and creates a basic environment in our body. Think about it - food that grows in the wild, without human interference is strong and resistant. By eating the plant we transfer those qualities into our body***.
***The above content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Meirav Mellzar is a Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.