The other day, I was reading about some exotic chocolates with the essence of moringa oleifera, which apparently has a heap of health benefits. The name ‘moringa’ seemed to ring a bell and wondered where I had heard the name… and of course, one of my best friends, Wikipedia, was right there with the answers. Moringa oleifera is nothing other than our good old drumstick tree!
The drumstick tree gets its name from the stick like shape of its fruits. The leaves, flowers and fruits of the tree are edible… nah, they are delicious. I have enjoyed all of them, routinely cooked in a myriad ways, from early childhood. And yet I didn’t know a thing about the extent of its worth as a miracle food!
The drumstick tree, moringa oleifera, has been called the ‘miracle tree’ due to its innumerable health benefits to humans. According to NIH (National Institutes of Health) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, it has the ability to treat over 300 diseases.
The leaves of this tree can provide all of the amino acids required by the human body, some of them enzymatically active amino acid sequences that do not exist in the food chain anywhere else. It contains 36 natural anti-inflammatory agents and 46 different antioxidants. The leaves also contain 7 times the vitamin C found in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, 2 times the protein of yogurt, 25 times the iron in spinach, and 3 times the potassium in bananas.
In addition, the drumstick tree has the ability to enhance the immune system function in human beings. What is more, this tree has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and antibiotic qualities as well! Last but not least, the drumstick tree acts as a detoxifying agent.
That is a glimpse into the benefits the tree provides for the humans. Talking about the tree itself, it has the ability to retain high concentrations of electrolyte minerals, and stay internally hydrated in the driest of conditions. The tree is prevalent in Asia, Africa and South America.
I am not sure how far I believe the paean of praise bestowed on moringa oleifera, aka the drumstick tree. But one thing I can say, any dish prepared out of the leaves, flowers or fruits of this tree is delicious!
Elissery is a common dish prepared in Kerala, the tiny little state on the south western coast of India. It is very versatile in the sense that you can prepare it with a wide variety of vegetables. The dish here has been made with the leaves of the drumstick tree, but you can make the same with either the flowers or fruits.
While getting the leaves ready, you have to be careful to pluck only the leaves, eliminating even the smallest stems, as the stems taste slightly bitter when cooked. Also, be careful not to overcook them. The leaves are quick cooking, being done in about five minutes.
Note: Spell check suggested that I change ‘elissery’ to ‘emissary’… All I could say was, what do you know about the excellence of elissery? 😉
- 3 cups drumstick leaves, picked free of stems
- ¾ tuvar dal
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 cup scraped coconut (can be fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw to room temperature)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 red chilies, broken into pieces
- 1 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- Boil the tuvar dal with enough water, till tender. If you use a pressure cooker, the dal will get cooked faster.
- Using a blender, coarsely grind the scraped coconut and cumin seeds, adding ladlefuls of water as required.
- When the dal is done, add the drumstick leaves, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste to the cooked dal.
- Stir well and cook covered, for five minutes.
- Add the ground coconut mixture to the dal-drumstick leaves mix and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat before the curry comes to a boil.
- In a small pan, heat the oil.
- When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Keep a splatter screen handy, or you will have oil all over your stovetop.
- When they have finished spluttering, add the chili pieces and curry leaves.
- When the chili is fried, add the mustard-chili mix to the curry, along with the oil.
- Stir well and serve with boiled or steamed rice.