Malunggay – horseradish tree, marungai, moringa tree, drumstick tree
A very unassuming vegetable, it grows into a tall tree up to 30 ft. tall and both fruits and leaves are edible. I remember my mom cooks them in boiled water flavored with fish sauce, just like the way Japanese put dashi (bonito stock) on their soup. And then, to add more flavor, she puts some grilled fish like tilapia or milkfish.
The plant is native to Africa. They use the plant for medicinal purposes. In the Philippines, the chicken soup full of malunggay leaves is good for mothers who are breastfeeding because it helps to activate the mammary glands to produce more milk.
To grow from seeds, you need a mature fruit to become brown in color and dried. You can also propagate by means of cuttings. It will reach a height of 12 ft. within the first year. It can tolerate frequent pruning. The cuttings from this pruning can be utilized as fencing material around your yard or vegetable garden for that rustic look of an English cottage garden.
The malunggay plant grows well in full sun. It is drought tolerant but needs constant watering during the growing season. Before you plant, make sure that the soil has good drainage by adding horticultural sand. It grows just like cactus and succulents.
Good for xeriscape gardens because it pretty much take care of itself as soon as it gets established. I have seen them grown in California but it thrives well here in Hawaii.
The malunggay plant will grow up to 30 feet tall. The tree will bear white flowers that will then turn into a long bean-like fruit and that would be edible too. Some people remove the skin entirely and shave of the edible meat of the pod. When you cut the pod open, it will have a triangular shape, and you can separate them into three long parts, then you can easily pare off the edible part from the skin. The skin is quite tough, you really would not want to eat it. But they also cut it in strips and in India, they call it “sucker sticks” because you have to suck the sticks to get the meat of the pod. We do the same thing in my hometown. My mom use malunggay whenever she makes the dish we call “diningding.” It is a very simple dish consists of anchovy-flavored stock, malunggay leaves and fruits, we add diced green papaya sometimes and also grilled tilapia or milkfish (bangus) to add more flavor to the stock or broth. It is a poor-man’s food in the Philippines actually but at least it is a very healthy food. According to the experts, malunggay leaves or fruits have a high content of protein, calcium, iron and also Vitamins A, B and C.
During my research, I found out that the seeds of the malunggay fruits are grounded into powder and used to purify the water from murky rivers. I wished I knew that back then, so I could have helped in cleaning our rivers in our area.