Bitter leaf as the name implies is very bitter, and for it to be used in a large quantity for cooking as a vegetable, the bitterness needs to be washed out. Like I said in my post on Bitter leaf soup/Onugbu soup, to wash out bitterness in fresh bitter leaf is tedious but doable.
The leaves need to wilt before washing, this helps prevent the bitter leaf from break into tiny bits rather, they will come out long and stringy.
To wash out bitterness in fresh bitter leaf
Pick the leaves off the stalk and spread out to wilt in a shaded place for one day. The leaves are not supposed to dry out completely.
Place the leaves in a large bowl with a little water and salt. Scrub with both hands.
After sometime, the water will start turning green.
Keep scrubbing and rubbing and foam will start to form. When the water turns deep green or brown,
with lots of foam, strain out the leaves with a sieve, throw out the water and add fresh clean water.
Continue scrubbing, rubbing and changing the water
until the water is almost clear and the leaves have lost most of the bitterness, it could take up to 5 to 6 circles.
Squeeze out and your bitter leaf (Onugbu) is ready for use in cooking.
- To remove the last traces of bitterness in bitter leaf for use in soup here.
- To dry/dehydrate bitter leaf here or here.
- Spread the leaves away from direct sunlight. If you spread it under the sun, it will dry up, and break into bits when washed. This will defeat the whole purpose of getting it stringy after washing.
- If spread under direct sunlight, some leaves will discolour and will not look good in the soup.
- During the dry season, do not spread out the bitterleaf to wilt. It will dry up and become crumbly instead of wilted. Wash the leaves straight away.