Thursday, July 12, 2012

moringa (marunggay)

my brother got lucky to have found a moringa plant at the farmer's market on saturday.  he took the young  moringa home, ready to be replanted at my grandma's backyard for us to enjoy in the months to come.

marunggay (or malunggay) as called in the philippines is hands downs my favorite vegetable- leaves, fruit and flowers.  in the north western tip of the philippines where i came from, the marunggay leaves is a staple, a common ingredient in a dish we call inabraw or dinengdeng (a stew of mixed vegetables).  i consider myself lucky that i live in a place where filipino vegetables isn't a rarity. even after many years of residing in the u.s. there are days i crave for the exotic vegetables i grew up eating.  on those days i would simply visit my lola (grandma) whose fridge always seem to have a serving of inabraw, ready to be eaten.  

back to marunggay, in the past few years there have been studies on the many health benefits of this leafy green vegetable.  it was even featured on dr. oz once, i suppose, as mentioned here.  marunggay  leaves they say contain twice the protein in milk, three times the potassium in bananas, four times the vitamin a in carrots and seven times the vitamin c in oranges.  and that's not it,  marunggay  helps strengthen the immune system, controls blood pressure, relieves headaches and migraines, prevents diabetes, reduces inflammations and arthritis pains, heals ulcers, prevents the growth of cancer cells and is useful for lactating mothers in increasing their breast milk. the list goes on. 

so how do you cook marunggay leaves?  marunggay is very versatile and can be stewed with a variety of other more common vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini and okra.  the authentic ilocano inabraw calls for diluted fermented fish paste we call buguong but i usually substitute with chicken broth for a more american-husband-friendly version.  (my husband cringe at the sight and smell of fish sauce or fish paste.)  

my simple marunggay soup is as easy as boiling a couple of cups of chicken broth with a sliver of fresh ginger then adding a cup of marunggay leaves.  the leaves cook quickly, just a blanch, about a couple of minutes with the pot covered, and that's it.  never overcook it.  you want the leaves to stay green, not brownish. my dad's trick so it doesn't overcook is to transfer the dish immediately to a serving plate so it stops cooking. for more details on how to cook marunggay hop on over to pinakbet republic. the blog also has a variety of dinengdeng posted if you're interested.

{back when i was still breastfeeding my little one, my grandma would make me chicken soup with marunggay when i go visit.  she claims it increases breast milk production.  i didn't really notice the difference to be honest but i was also taking fenugreek and blessed thistle capsules at the time for that same purpose. some of my friends however agrees that it helps with milk production.}

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