Described as the most nutrient-rich food yet discovered, but we bet you’ve not heard of Moringa.
Moringa Oleifera – also known as the Horseradish tree, Mulangay, Benzolive and Drumstick tree – has actually been used as food and medicine for centuries and by many cultures. Although native to sub-Himalayan regions of northwest India, Moringa is now indigenous to many regions of the world, including the Caribbean and South America.
Moringa oleifera is a member of the “Brassica” group of vegetables, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. However, unlike these vegetables, moringa is a fast-growing, deciduous tree, which is extremely hardy and drought resistant.
The fruit of Moringa trees consists of pods like long drumsticks, which contain seeds. The fresh pods can be used as a vegetable in cooking – for example in curries.
When left to dry, the seeds can be extracted and then dried. Moringa leaves are also edible, having a rather peppery taste.
Health Benefits of Moringa
Moringa is widely regarded as an extremely healthy food. Indeed, many people who consume it regularly refer to it as “the miracle tree”, due to its reputation for preventing and treating various ailments – and even some chronic diseases.
And unlike the hype that surrounds many other so-called superfoods, many of the health claims made for Moringa are supported by a growing body of scientific evidence.
The reason for the scientific interest in Moringa is its incredibly high nutrient content, which includes essential amino acids, high levels of omega-3 oils, a very wide range of protective antioxidants as well as high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Indeed, in a recent research paper, scientists dubbed Moringa as “the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered!” In particular, scientists have discovered that Moringa contains a wide array of natural compounds that have been shown to:
- Exert an anti-tumour effect i.e. help fight cancer cells.
- Reduce inflammation e.g. in arthritic conditions.
- Exert an anti-diabetic effect e.g. improve the way the body controls blood sugar.
- Lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol i.e. improve heart health.
- Exert an anti-stomach ulcer effect.
And if that wasn’t good enough, lotions containing Moringa have also been found to be extremely effective skin and hair moisturisers!
Pods – fresh Moringa pods can be cooked as vegetables, for example, added to stews and curries. The pods’ outer skins are too tough and fibrous to eat but the seeds and flesh are deliciously juicy, tasting rather like green beans only sweeter.
The problem is that fresh pods (and leaves) are difficult to source here in the UK; not only is demand low, but the transport costs are still prohibitive.
However, if you can find fresh Moringa pods, you can use them to make a delicious and extremely health curry (see recipe).
Seeds – when freshly plucked from the pods, the seeds are quite tender, but in their dried form (the sort that are available to buy), they are much harder, resembling greyish-white small beans with unique wing-like structures.
The seeds are a very concentrated source of nutrients and can be steamed, boiled or roasted. However, caution is required; while Moringa seeds are crammed with natural compounds known to be beneficial to health, they should only be consumed in very small amounts – perhaps no more than 2 per day – as higher intakes can lead to tummy upsets.
Think of them more as a medicine than a food!
Moringa Recipe Drumstick Curry With Onions
Here’s a quick easy-to-prepare curry recipe using Moringa (drumstick) pods. Rich in carbohydrate and containing high-quality protein and a range of nutrients, it makes for a very nutritious and delicious meal.
- 4-5 Moringa drumsticks
- 2-3 onions finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 1 twig of curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon of tamarind extract
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 red chillies cut into pieces
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Cut drumsticks into around 3cm long pieces
- Heat oil in a pan and add the chillies and mustard seeds
- When mustard seeds stop spluttering, add the chopped onion
- Add the salt and turmeric powder
- Cover the pan and allow it to cook on a low flame – keep stirring for 10 minutes
- Now add the tamarind extract and chopped tomatoes
- Cook for a further 5 minutes and serve hot with rice.