HIGH ON NU­TRI­ENTS

Moringa leaves are packed with nu­tri­ents, but very few know about it

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - CHITRA BALA­SUB­RA­MA­NIAM

Moringa leaves are popular in vil­lages for their health ben­e­fits

RE­CENTLY, I saw a few maids pluck­ing the leaves from a branch of a moringa tree near my house. I was a bit hes­i­tant to in­ter­fere, but was cu­ri­ous about what they planned to do with the leaves.“We eat them,”they replied shyly. A do-gooder cable op­er­a­tor who was pass­ing by stopped to lis­ten to the con­ver­sa­tion. He en­quired fur­ther in Odia and told me that the leaves were a common food in ru­ral ar­eas.I asked the maids if they could share a few leaves, and they hap­pily agreed. Since that day,my stock has gone up among the maids as they now iden­tify me as some­one who has a good un­der­stand­ing of food.

At home, child­hood mem­o­ries came flood­ing back.There used to be a beau­ti­ful moringa tree, with the juici­est of drum­sticks,grow­ing in our neigh­bour’s back­yard. My mother would oc­ca­sion­ally reach out of the win­dow and pluck the leaves to make de­li­cious sam­bar and cur­ries. As a three-year-old, I was im­pressed.Moringa was the only food that was grown at home, while all other fruits and vegetables were bought from the mar­ket. I still thank my mother for in­cul­cat­ing in me the love for the tree through her de­li­cious recipes.

Moringa leaves are known by dif­fer­ent names— mu­run­gaielai in Tamil, mu­na­ga­chet­tuin Tel­ugu, sah­janin Hindi, soi­janin Bi­har or drum­stick in English. Raw leaves taste bit­ter, but the bit­ter­ness dis­ap­pears on cook­ing. The leaves cook in just a few min­utes and re­tain their bright green colour, which makes any moringa dish very ap­peal­ing.

While the leaves are eaten in all parts of the coun­try,they are popular in vil­lages.In ci­ties,they are con­sid­ered in­fra dig. Nei­ther the tree finds a place in man­i­cured lawns nor do the leaves find a place of pride among the greens.

Moringa is a su­per­food with plenty of health ben­e­fits. Its cu­ra­tive prop­er­ties are well doc­u­mented in ayurvedic texts. It is said to be used in over 300 ayurvedic com­po­si­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the Nu­tri­tive Value­ofIn­di­anFoods by C Gopalan,moringa leaves have seven times the vi­ta­min C found in or­anges,four

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