by Rose Churma
Malunggay, also known as Moringa in English and Marunggay or Kalamunggay in Ilocano is usually associated with Filipino cuisine. It is not unusual to find this tree in the backyard of a Filipino household. Referred to as a miracle plant, it is both food as well as a health and wellness supplement.
Malunggay contains four times the beta-carotene of Vitamin A in carrots. It is also rich in Vitamin C and a rich source of calcium and protein. It has more potassium than bananas, as well as zinc and iron (three times more than spinach).
Moringa also helps balance the cholesterol levels in the body and contains amino acids that help in the growth and maintenance of body tissues. Since it balances sugar levels, it is good in the fight against diabetes.
Malunggay also is an immunity-stimulant – the body’s natural defense mechanism increases with the consumption of this food item daily – such that this was recommended by doctors in Africa for AIDS afflicted patients.
Considering that this book was published before the COVID pandemic, it is likely that its regular consumption could also increase one’s immunity against the virus.
The consumption of malunggay also stimulates metabolism and is likely to aid in weight reduction and is known to promote the feeling of well-being in people.
The authors’ interest in malunggay started during a medical mission to Bohol in 2001 where they noticed a high incidence of goiter in the islands.
It was suggested that this could be due to protein deficiency, and since the leaves of the moringa plant are known to contain high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals, malunggay leaves, in sufficient amounts was the chosen solution.
This was fed to school children in small communities and the results were encouraging. Thus, the concept of this book was born – to encourage the use of malunggay as a nutritional supplement by creating recipes that incorporate the malunggay leaves.Usually, the malunggay is used for chicken tinola, dinengdeng or munggo beans stew. This cookbook offers other creative recipes using the leaves – in powdered form or fresh from the tree.
For the breakfast meal, the leaves can be added to scrambled eggs, or the powdered form added to the pancake mix. A few handfuls of the leaves can be thrown into the smoothie in whatever flavor.
The powder can be added to mayonnaise, or in preparing pesto sauce. The powdered form can also be mixed in the dry ingredients when making pasta or lumpia wrappers. A recipe in the book called for mixing chopped malunggay leaves in preparing burgers or tossing a cup of leaves in making salsa.
Some years ago, to encourage the use of malunggay in everyday cooking, we organized a potluck dinner where the participants were asked to bring a dish using malunggay.
Among the dishes was a shrimp dish cooked in the Mediterranean style garnished with malunggay leaves. Another cooked quiche – and in lieu of spinach – used tons of malunggay leaves. He even did a cooking demonstration minutes before the dinner to show how easy it is to use the leaves.
Since the malunggay tree grows in abundance in Hawaii and needs to be pruned regularly, one homeowner decided to sun-dry the discarded leaves. She spread it out on pans in her lanai and when dried, crumbled the leaves and stored it in air-tight jars. I was one of the recipients of those dried leaves. The powdery product can then be sprinkled on steamed rice like furikake or mixed into smoothies – a painless way to get finicky eaters to consume the plant.
My next culinary project will be oatmeal-malunggay cookies – its recipe is found in this book. For wellness fanatics, this would be the epitome of a guilt-free cookie: mixing fiber-rich oats with nutrient-packed malunggay!
For anybody interested in the outcome and taste, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (facebook.com/kalamansibooks), promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at email@example.com.
by Rose Churma