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Keniker leaves are green, oft leaves with feathery, pointed tips. They are flat in nature and are typically 15 to 25 centimetres in length. They grow alternately on long, sturdy many-branched stems that can be slightly hairy. Keniker leaves have a distinct astringent scent when crushed or rubbed. Keniker leaves have a lemon-like taste with notes of mango.
Keniker leaves are available year-round.
Keniker leaves are botanically classified as Cosmos caudatus. They may be referred to as Wild Cosmos in English, and Ulam Raja in Malay. This translates to the 'king's vegetable'. Although it is often found in traditional medicine, it is also used in salads and cooked dishes. It is found in local markets in Southeast Asia, rather than in grocery stores.
Keniker leaves contain a high level of antioxidants and flavanoids. They are a source of protein, carbohydrate, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin B and vitamin C. Studies have shown that they may have positive effects on blood pressure, bone loss and diabetes. They have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal effects. They have been shown to inhibit the ativitiy of candida albicans and E. Choli.
Keniker leaves may be eaten raw in salads. They may also be used juiced, in smoothies. Keniker leaves are also found in cooked dishes, often cooked in coconut milk or with shrimp paste, onions, chiles and garlic. Keniker leaves are often a component in the Malay dish known as Nasi Kerabu. This comprises rice cooked with blue pea flowers and served with a variety of vegetables, prawn crackers and fish. Keniker leaves are also used in sweet green bean soups. Fresh Keniker leaves are prone to wilting. To store them, chop the bottom halves of the stems off and place the remaining 'bouquet' of leaves in a jar of water in the refrigerator, where it will last for a day or two.
Keniker leaves are used in traditional medicines in Southeast Asia. They are traditionally used to enhance the appetite, to treat stomach disorders, and to strengthen the bones. They are also used in insect repellents.
The exact origins of the Keniker plant are unknown. However, the plant is native to tropical America and was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish. The plant made its way through Asia and is now a popular vegetable in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is also naturalized in the tropical regions of Australia and Africa. The plant is an ornamental in the United Kingdom, where it has been grown as since the 18th century. The flowers of the Keniker plant are known there as an edible heirloom variety.