PLANT FAMILY: Drumstick Tree
BOTANICAL NAME: Moringa Oleifera
HAWAIIAN NAME: Marungai (Filipino)
OTHER COMMON NAMES: Drumtick Tree, Horseradish Tree, Ben Oil Tree, Kalumungay, Seijan, Sajina, Murungakka, Paraiso, Mouroungue
PLANT RELATIVES: Single family with 13 trees as members
EDIBLE PARTS: Leaves, Flowers, Pods, Seeds, Oil and Roots
Moringa Oliefera, commonly called moringa or drumstick tree, is native to the foothills of the Himalayas. Luckily, the trees thrive in Hawaii where we live. I say luckily because they provide an abundant source of super food. They grow at an impressive pace to 30 feet or more.
Did you look carefully at the plant parts in the photo? Once you know what a moringa tree looks like, they are easy to spot. Their delicate leaves rustle in the wind, and the long dangling pods are a dead giveaway. Whether just off the sidewalk, or in the yards of our West Maui neighborhoods, these special trees are a welcome sight.
The moringa plant has many edible parts. I was first drawn to cooking the young pods of the tree. That’s because originally I learned about moringa from my friend at the community garden. He told me what a succulent treat they are in Filipino cuisine. Then he went on to motion just how you grasp one end of a cooked pod and suck the tender green bean-like seeds from the shell. Furthermore, he explained the fibrous outside of the pods are too tough to chew. Hence they are tossed aside in the same way artichoke leaves are discarded.
After that, I coupled his advice with recipes I found in my Indian cookbooks. It wasn’t too far from there to delicious “drumsticks” dripping with curry-flavored sauces showing up on our table.
As I read more about the nutritional benefits of moringa, I couldn’t wait to find ways to incorporate other parts besides the intriguing pods in my recipes. If there is one food that truly deserves the title superfood, moringa is it. A little research reveals it has more vitamin C than oranges, more potassium than bananas, more vitamin A than carrots, more iron than spinach, more protien than yogurt and more calcium than milk. Wow. That’s just a start. The antioxident and phytochemical composisition of moringa is also exceptional.
Now the leaves are a regular item in green smoothies at our house and Moringa Barley Minestrone is a favorite winter soup. The fact that moringa has a mild yet delicious flavor makes it so easy to find ways to eat it frequently. It has become a true friend in our kitchen.
Other Moringa Benefits
It also warms my heart to know nearly every part of the moringa plant, from root to seed, is valuable. Moringa has medicinal benefits and even holds promise in the treatment of diabetes. I still can’t get over plants that grow easily and offer up so many benefits. I am amazed by the gift of such abundance.
While I don’t want to detract fromthis amazing plants significant benefits, you might want to note that eating too many flowers, and seeds especially has a laxative effect. Thus, you’ll be forewarned if you’re going to cook with them. Also, while the root is used as a spice, there is some indication the bark of roots can be toxic. I suspect it’s nick-named the horseradish tree due to the roots. I don’t imagine digging up any roots soon. However, if I learn more about the safety and use of roots, I’ll be sure to let you know.