The Great Moringa, Miracle Tree, Project and Spicy Lentils

 Here is my moringa tree patch, right after a good pruning

My long awaited post.  The Moringa tree, also known as Drumstick tree, or the Miracle Tree, is said to have the ability to cure over 300 diseases.  Just quoting research here.  From a food point of view, Moringa leaves can be used like spinach, though they are far more nutritious. Sorry Popeye.  And I love the nutty, legume scent of the leaves when picked fresh.

The leaves can be used fresh or dried into a powder, are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, a good source of B vitamins, and among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high, iron is good enough to treat anemia — three times that of spinach — and it’s an excellent source of protein while being low on fats and carbohydrates. Said another way, Moringa leaves have seven times the Vitamin C of oranges, four times the calcium of milk, four times the vitamin A of carrots, three times the potassium of bananas, and two times the protein of yogurt.

 That’s quite a line up. The leaves also have the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. Medically it is antibiotic and research shows it can be used to treat high blood pressure. A leaf tea is used by diabetics to help regulate their blood sugar. It is full of antioxidants, is anti-cancerous, and when eaten by mothers they give birth to healthier, heavier babies.  A 28 December 2007 study said a root extract is very anti inflammatory.

In fact, let me quote you an earlier abstract from Phytotherapy Research 16 Sept 2006:

Moringa oleifera Lam (Moringaceae) is a highly valued plant, distributed in many countries of the tropics and subtropics. It has an impressive range of medicinal uses with high nutritional value. Different parts of this plant contain a profile of important minerals, and are a good source of protein, vitamins, -carotene, amino acids and various phenolics. The Moringa plant provides a rich and rare combination of zeatin, quercetin, -sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol. In addition to its compelling water purifying powers and high nutritional value, M. oleifera is very important for its medicinal value. Various parts of this plant such as the leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, antiinflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine, particularly in South Asia. This review focuses on the detailed phytochemical composition, medicinal uses, along with pharmacological properties of different parts of this multipurpose tree. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The blooms are lovely

Now you know why they call it “The Miracle Tree.” It is being planted extensively in poorer areas of the world, some 400,000 trees in Rwanda alone.  I am totally convinced.  And, what is especially appreciated, from a gardener's perspective, is the hassle free aspect.  Bugs don't bother it, and there is no real maintenance, other than pruning back, which gives you food.  However, all that said, and while my trees are getting bigger and taller, I have yet to make much use of those leaves.  Shame on me!

 Which brings me to this post. A project in fact.  I am determined to find more recipes and ways to incorporate the plant into our diets.   To that end, I have just made two more recipes with this mighty plant material -  a lentil dish, spicy Indian and quite tasty.  I also added a healthy :) amount into my minestrone the other day.  Earlier on (last year) I made a quiche, substituting moringa for the spinach.  We are now more actively working on this project.  Promise.

Spicy Lentils and Moringa leaves
     Recipe from D & K of chefinyou.com

 Cook time: Under 15 min.   Prep time: Under 30 min
 Serves: 4 people -  Yields: As a part of a main course along with one other side dish, this easily serves  4-6  people


    280 grams bunch Drumstick Leaves (Moringa)
    1/3 Cup Moong Dal (split mung beans)
    1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
    2 tsp Coconut Oil
    1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
    1/2 tsp Urad Dal (split Black gram)
    1-2 Red Chilli
    1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Lemon Juice to taste
    2 tablespoons butter (or to taste)

1. Drumstick Leaves: I had a roughly large bunch weighing around 280 grams. The leaves alone including the tender stems weighed approximately 150 grams (6oz). Depending on your taste preferences you can increase or decrease the amount of moong dal in this recipe. You can increase especially if  trying to mask the slight bitterness of the drumstick leaves. (I have not noticed this at all, they have a nice nutty taste.)

1. Soak the moong dal in some water overnight or at least 1-2 hours. This step is optional but soaking not only aids digestion but also reduces the cooking time significantly. If you are short on time you can start cooking immediately without soaking as well.
2. Drain and add this to a saucepan. Add enough water (about a cup) along with turmeric.
3. Cook in med-high flame, allow it to boil and cook until just soft.
4. You don't want it mushy.  If you have soaked the lentils, then check around the 6-8 minute mark. Take a cooked moong dal and press it with your fingers, it should be soft enough to press easily.
5. At this stage, remove the cooked moong dal from flame and drain. Retain any water left over.
6. Remove the drumsticks leaves from the stem. You can use the tender stems.  Wash and give it a rough chop.
7. Heat oil in a pan ( I use the same pan used to cook my dal)  and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds sputter, add split urad dal and broken red chilli and fry them till the dal turns golden brown. Add cumin and when the aroma hits,
8. add the chopped leaves along with and salt and mix well.
9. Add  about 1/2 cup of retained dal water ( otherwise just use water) and allow the leaves to cook completely. The leaves will cook quickly but will not become mushy or slimy.
10. Lower heat and then add cooked dal.
11. Mix well and season with additional salt if needed, and pepper powder to taste. (I used chipolte)
12. Stir to combine, switch the flame and squeeze some fresh lemon juice to taste.
Serve warm along with any South Indian main course menu like Sambar, Kuzhambu and Rasam. Don't forget a healthy dose of freshly homemade ghee to along with it.  (I used butter, and served with torn pieces of whole wheat flour tortilla and cucumber salad with kefir dressing.)

Further recipes will be tested and posted on as we go along with the project.  Especially the fruit (drumsticks), as soon as my trees produce some.  I would help if I didn't clip any branches with flowers on them.  This post has been linked to Meat Free Mondays, hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and also to Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.


Rachel said...

Just wanted to let you know that the Yes, Chef roundup for Cook the Books is now up. Thanks for sending over your post.

Beth F said...

Wow! How did I miss this tree when I lived in Hawaii? (I worked there two summers many years ago). If I had a Miracle Tree in my backyard, I try to take advantage of it too. Keep us posted!

Vicki said...

This recipe sounds good and I'd love to try it and the tea. Now I just have to find a Miracle Tree.

Carole said...

Well, you have taught me something new -- never heard of the moringa tree. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

jama said...

I've never heard of this tree and I'm from Hawai'i! It sounds miraculous in every way. What do the leaves taste like raw? Is it like spinach?

Claudia said...

Not surprising Jama, I've lived here most of my life and only recently heard of it. Often Filipinos have moringa in the Farmer's Market. Tastes a bit like spinach raw, with more of a peppery bite to it.

Katherine P said...

How fascinating! I've never heard of this tree but I'm now very curious. That's great that you're making an effort to include it in your diet. It sounds like it's a nutrition gold mine and I love that it's getting planted in struggling countries. Thanks for sharing!

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

That's an impressive line-up of nutrients. And, what a pretty flower, too!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I've never heard of Moringa, what an interesting post.