Kardi, Noo'ah loof
Noo’ah Loof (of the Arum genus, usually Arum palaestinum or Arum dioscorides) is a beautiful plant with bright green leaves and a black calla lily flower that blooms with the early spring rains in Palestine. Loof blooms in shady, warm, wet mountainous areas, and grows spontaneously. In Kurdish, it is called kardi, but the Jewish Kurds also use the name noo’ah, which is in Aramaic. It is usually a poisonous plant if eaten raw, which is why it undergoes a special way of cooking it in order to render it edible. It is usually cooked with the addition of a large quantity of olive oil and sumac to enhance the taste: cooking five kilos of loof often consumes two liters of olive oil in the cooking process. A bitter compound in the leaves can cause numbness in the mouth. One who can prepare loof without leaving this numbness is considered a master chef of the vegetable. Loof is often prepared wearing gloves to avoid any allergic reactions. The plant is washed well and left to dry. It is cut into pieces and boiled in water with the addition of olive oil. Some people also add chickpeas to the cooking. After several hours, sumac is also added. It is often served with cooked bulgur wheat. Other preparations include its use boiled in soups, or sautéed and served with onions, tomato-based sauces or whole wheat bread. Loof is considered a delicacy by those who know how to prepare it. It has a taste similar to spinach or Swiss chard. Experts note that loof is a rich source of iron and minerals, and can treat some types of skin infections. It is used as an intestinal detox and also to treat diabetes. There may also be cancer-fighting properties associated with this plant. Loof has featured in herbal medicine in Palestine for many generations. Despite its medicinal and culinary potential, loof is at risk of being lost among younger generations. Many no longer bother to harvest, wash, and undergo the long preparation process, having access to other pre-washed leafy greens on supermarket shelves. However, older, more traditional Palestinians would not think of substituting this highly valued species.
Image: © Marco Del Comune & Oliver Migliore