Drumstick Tree
Pods & Leaves [Horseradish Tree; Malunggay (Philippines); Sajina (India); Moringa oleifera]

This fast growing tree from northern India has been planted worldwide because of it's many uses, only a few of which are as food. The name "Horseradish Tree" comes from the taste of the roots when ground, but they should not be used as a condiment because they contain serious toxins. The main food parts are the pods (particularly in India) which may be over 18 inches long, and young leaf shoots (particularly in the Philippines but also in India). Many parts of this tree also have medicinal properties (the seeds are supposed to be good for erectile disfunction).

Drumstick Pods
Drumsticks "Drumsticks" are very commonly used in Indian cuisine. Immigrants to the US are often quite surprised when they ask for "drumsticks" in the markets and are referred to the chicken section. These "drumsticks" are becoming increasingly available in Indian and Philippine markets here in California, but are still expensive (2013 US $6.00 / pound) and availability is still erratic.

Eating the pods can be problematic. In India, very young pods are often used, when they can be cooked much like green beans. Here in Southern California we get only the mature, hard as wood pods. With a fairly mature pod the shell remains very hard and woody even with long cooking. This is not a problem in India - they eat everything with their fingers (why soup is almost unknown in India - they don't have spoons). Here you can treat them as you would Artichoke leaves, Cut into 3 to 4 inch lengths, boil 10 minutes or steam 15, split them open and scrape out the pulp and seeds by drawing across your teeth, then discard the woody shell. Taste is pleasant, a bit like green beans and zucchini but more complex.

Malunggay leaves
Leaves Malunggay leaves are used in the Philippines in great quantity and are one of the most nutritious vegetables known, high in calcium, protein, fiber, phosphorus, iron, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C and antioxidants. Many Filipinos hold strong childhood memories of malunggay leaves in soups - some with delight and some with horror.

Buying and Storing:   Fresh leaves can occasionally be found in well stocked markets serving Philippine communities (in California surrounding any large medical center - without Filipino immigrants we would have no health system at all). They can be kept loosely bagged in the refrigerator for a few days at most.

Frozen:   Flat bags of frozen leaves can always be found in the freezer cases of Philippine markets, deceptively labeled "Horseradish Leaves". Jars of brined leaves can be found in some other Asian markets. Dried powdered leaves are used in parts of India but I haven't noticed them in the Indian markets here. An 8 ounce package is mostly water and will yield about 2-1/4 ounces of leaves after thawing and wringing out, but that's about the right amount for a fairly large pot of soup.

Cooking:   Fresh or frozen, malunggay leaves should be added to soups in the very last moments before serving or they tend to get slimy.

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