Autumn leaves

Gotukola leaves, and cooked mallung

Well another three months and we welcome another season, the long and hottest summer is almost a memory and so looking forward to some cooler if dryer weather. Yes, we have had some very wet weeks. This is a country of extremes and just when the weather becomes unbearable it changes yet again.

The recent rains have made everything in the garden grow like Topsy, even the weeds. Last weekend I spent hours weeding the front planter box and today I noticed a flourishing crop of new weeds! On of the benefits has been the renewed growth of my ‘Gotu kola’ [Centella asiatica or asian pennywort] which has spread and is taking over one half of the planter box. It is quite an attractive plant with rounded almost kidney shaped leaves with a scalloped edge, slightly bitter but has many medicinal properties and is much valued in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used as a remedy for joint problems, memory loss as well as wound healing and circulatory problems. In Sri Lanka it is commonly used as a mallung shredded and cooked briefly with grated coconut, salt and finely sliced green chilli and a squeeze of lime juice. The leaves are also boiled with red rice and made into a porridge or congee called ‘kola kende’ a healthy breakfast option, commonly eaten with a small piece of Jaggery [palm sugar] Green herbal porridges made with seasonal medicinal herbs are becoming very popular and now served as a breakfast option in most hotels. They are also available in packets, dehydrated and ready to be reconstituted with water. I always start my breakfasts in Sri Lanka with a serve of kola kende before gorging on the other delicious breakfast options of hoppers, string hoppers, pittu, kiri bath, dosais…

Gotu kola mallung is very easy to make and is a great accompaniment to a traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry meal, you can add the umami laced ‘maldive fish for added flavour . Gotu kola is very easy to grow in Australia and does not need any special attention. I was fortunate to get my plant at a Sri Lankan food festival in Sydney, many years ago when the Dept of Agriculture, NSW was giving away free plants to the public. Apparently there were many Sri Lankans in NSW who were growing what they thought was Gotu kola but was in fact a very similar noxious weed, and they wanted people to get rid of what they were growing and replace it with the real thing. It is available at most good nurseries and sold as Asian Pennywort/Gotu kola [arthritis herb]. It is said that chewing on a couple of raw leaves every day helps with joint aches and sharpening the memory.

I love cooking with the leaves as well as using them in a healthy breakfast drink blended with other vegetables/fruit or berries.

Check out the recipe for a Gotu kola mallung in the recipe section.