Moringa: The Drumsticks of Heaven and Wellness
I was relaxing at my home on Sunday morning when these two young kids about fourteen-years-old, parked their bicycle in front of my house and came in with a bunch of long drumsticks. The brother and sister team who lived in a nearby fishermen’s village had decided to earn some money by selling the drumsticks that were growing abundantly in a tree just outside their house.
This is one vegetable I will buy from a non-organic source as the common tree variety of this vegetable is hardly even sprayed with pesticides. The other vegetable that is generally insect proof is the chow-chow also known in Tamil Nadu as the Bangalore Kathrikkai. It is known in English as Chayote (scientific name Sechium edule). This is another vegetable that can be bought from regular farmers if you are hard pressed to get it from an organic farmer. So back to our young entrepreneurs who did a brisk sale at my house as I bought quite a few of the healthy fresh long drumsticks for my own use and for distribution to friends and relatives. The plant is quite easy to cultivate and can be grown from a thickish branch.
Moringa oleifera as the drumstick is known in botanical literature, is one of our most valuable resources. The whole tree is used in Ayurveda and Siddha for medicinal purposes. Because it contains a whole battery of phenolics, it acts as a cardiac and circulatory stimulant. It possesses antitumour, antipyretic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal properties. With such a plethora of health benefits it would be a shame not to include this vegetable regularly in our diet.
Drumstick sambhar is very popular in Tamil Nadu and I love the aroma of sambhar infused with ‘murungakai’ as it is locally known. Drumstick poriyal, drumstick curry with onions and tomatoes and even a drumstick pickle are dishes that are made often. The drumstick pickle is a little laborious to make as the inside meat has to be painstakingly removed after boiling the drumstick to make the pickle. Worth the effort though as it is a very flavourful pickle. Moringa leaves are very popular in Tamil Nadu and is called Moringa Keerai, and is used as a green leafy vegetable. It is cooked in water used for washing grain and eaten as a side dish with rice. It is an excellent source of iron, some proteins, vitamins, betacarotene and amino acids. My dad loves to serve a soup made of the leaves and flowers of the plant. My sister will stop the car if she sees a drumstick tree laden with flowers as she loves the curry made with flowers of the drumstick tree.
I remember that a few years ago, I had planted quite a few trees in my farm. It grew quite well but a sudden whirlwind uprooted almost all the trees. I was relating this unhappy incident to my vaidyar when she told me to transport all the fallen trees to her clinic as the roots and barks of trees were used for various ayurvedic preparations the most famous of these being Varanadi Kashayam used in treating obesity. So we have this wonder tree of India which will grow just about anywhere where there is plenty of sun, which bears fruit unashamedly and is a great source of nutrition. So go ahead and make dishes from the fruit, the flowers and the leaves of this tree. Since the leaves are difficult to digest use it in moderation for young children and only when it is well cooked I will write in detail about Varanadi Kashayam in my next article.
The writer was earlier Health Secretary, Tamil Nadu, and is currently Additional Chief Secretary, and Chairman and MD, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation. She can be reached at Sheelarani.firstname.lastname@example.org. Earlier articles can be accessed at arogyamantra.blogspot.com
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