When I was a wee little toddler I remember drinking this refreshing, cool-green smoothie in the heat of Saigon. Last year, when I was at the Civic Center’s Farmer’s Market here in SF, I saw pennyworth for the first time outside of my native country but I’ve just now come around to creating my own pennyworth smoothie at home. It smells and tastes like grass and is the most refreshing and healthy drink I could possibly imagine. Think of it as super wheat grass.
Have you heard of Centella asiatica? Otherwise known as Asiatic Pennyworth, the plant is a kind of magical herb with plenty of accompanying lore. It grows in the tropical swamps of Asian countries where its revered for its medicinal properties. Some people believe it contains a mysterious youth vitamin “X”. It’s known to be antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory… it’s also used to treat open sores, anxiety, and a number of other ailments.
The plant loves water so I toss mine in a bowl of water as soon as I get home. To make a smoothie, I remove the leaves from the stems and blend it with crushed ice in a strong blender. The Vietnamese herb farmer I spoke to suggested 1 cup of leaves to 1/2 c. of finely crushed ice. Serve it sweetened with honey or simple syrup. If you don’t like iced drinks, you can blend the leaves with cold water and serve the drink over ice cubes. I prefer the thicker version.
Optional: For a smoother version, start with half of the water and pass the blend through a fine mesh strainer. Use the large discards to blend with half of the remaining water. Repeat. This will give you less leafy bits in your smoothie. Serve over ice.
Pennyworth is also used in traditional Indian cuisines – sometimes deep fried as pakoras. I think I need to make some don’t you?