Hello Murungai Keerai Minestrone Soup! Do you wonder how moringa leaves, also called murungai keerai, found their way into my hearty Italian stew? The truth is I am always looking for new ways to incorporate beautiful, nutritious plants into my cuisine.
🌿 Is moringa a superfood, herb, or tree?
Moringa oliefera, by its Latin name, is both a powdered superfood sold in capsules and a fast-growing tree with attractive leaves and flowers. However, this incredible plant is so much more. Every part of moringa trees has been used for centuries.
Not only are the leaves delicious in murungai keerai soup, but the flowers are edible, and in many parts of the world, trees provide nutritious food with their young green seed pods, called drumsticks. If you would like to learn more, here is a very interesting link to start with from UC Davis.
🌳 Moringa tree
So, knowing all this, you can imagine why a discussion popped up at our local community garden with a few members about how we could establish some moringa trees. We wanted to grow the superfood plant talked about in the news.
Well, here's the funny part. It turns out we had several moringas already growing in the garden. I have to laugh at my own ignorance and that of a few other garden friends.
You see, the trees with their willowy leaves had been pruned many times over the years. Because we had become accustomed to seeing these gnarly workhorses, we never dreamed they were the "Tree of Life."
📖 Moringa has many names
Once I knew we had the trees, I asked around the garden to see if others were aware what an amazing superfood moringa provided.
One of the aunties laughed and said, "Well, if you mean, why do we add it to soup for our guys when they return ravenous from a morning's hard work, then yes."
She elaborated further on how she has been eating murungai keerai soup since childhood. In her Hawaiian family, it's been highly valued for as long as she can remember.
While our Indian gardening friends called the leaves murungai keerai, most of the other members who had grown up eating moringa knew it by the Filipino name malunggay.
🍵 Making murungai keerai soup
You will be amazed at how simple it is to incorporate fresh moringa leaves in my nutritious bean and barley minestrone. It really is as straightforward as one-two-three.
- Wash and shake dry fresh moringa leaves on the branch.
- Pluck individual leaves from their stems.
- Toss the murungai keerai into the minestrone in the last ten minutes of cooking, along with broccoli. Just like broccoli florets, moringa leaves quickly soften and soak up all the marvelous flavors of a stew.
- Barley - replace with one cup of cooked short-grain brown rice.
- Vine ripe tomatoes - swap one 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
- Olive oil - substitute vegetable oil or leave it out.
- Fresh corn - frozen corn.
- Kidney beans - other cooked red or pink beans are delicious.
- Broccoli - try tender fresh green beans.
- Vegetable broth - 6 cups water plus 3 vegetable bouillion cubes.
You can substitute fresh, sliced spinach leaves for moringa leaves. Your recipe won't have the special superfood properties of moringa, but the spinach will cook in a similar fashion to murungai keerai, and your dish will likely have a good flavor.
Yes, it blends beautifully in smoothies and has a mild flavor that pairs with sweet tropical fruits.
Yes, it's easy to make your own moringa superfood powder. Simply wash and dry moringa leaves until crisp. Powder the dry leaves in a spice mill or high-speed blender.
🍝 More Healthy Italian Recipes
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Murungai Keerai Minestrone Soup
- ⅓ cup uncooked pearled barley
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp. olive oil, optional
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 6 cups well-seasoned vegetable broth
- 2 cups diced vine ripe tomatoes
- ½ cup fresh corn from the cob
- 1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans
- 1 cup coarsely chopped white cabbage
- 2 large sage leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 small bay leaves
Finish with Moringa Leaves
- 2 cups fresh moringa leaves, stems removed or substitute chopped fresh spinach
- ½ cup broccoli
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add barley, reduce heat, and cook for 35 minutes or until tender.
- While barley cooks, chop vegetables and gather seasonings.
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add celery, onion, and carrot. Saute until the onion begins to soften and brown. Alternatively, pan-roast vegetables with a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Add salt and garlic. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add to soup pot: Vegetable broth, diced tomatoes with juice, corn, beans, cabbage, sage, thyme, bay leaves, and cooked barley with its cooking water. Boil over low heat for 15 minutes.
Finish with Moringa Leaves
- Add moringa leaf and cook another 10 minutes. Finally, add broccoli and turn the heat off. Let soup sit on the burner for 5 minutes.
- Remove bay, sage leaves, and thyme sprigs from the soup. Serve with vegan parmesan if desired.