My dad and I both enjoy gardening, and a year ago he boasted about his moringa forest. He claims that moringa benefits extend to relieving joint pains, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing inflammation. I didn’t doubt him since plant-based foods contain vital nutrients and compounds necessary for maintaining a healthy body. In my research, sure enough, studies on moringa demonstrate it’s potential in the prevention and management of various diseases [2, 3]. To take advantage of the pharmacological properties of moringa, I incorporate it as a leafy green in my cooking. Click on this link or scroll down below to check out my moringa and lentil stew recipe.
From Garden to Table
One day, my dad came to visit and gifted me a moringa branch in a pot. I was ecstatic, but I didn’t think that it would thrive in a 2.5 gallons planter. Nevertheless, I waited patiently so that I can have my favorite mung bean stew with moringa (balatong). It’s a dish that I grew up eating in our Filipino household. This summer, my moringa tree is thriving with plenty of leaves to spare for my cooking. It’s unfortunate that my pantry isn’t stocked with mung beans. So for this recipe, I utilize lentils, another delicious legume.
Moringa, also known as Moringa oleifera, horseradish tree, malungay, mlonge, benzolive, drumstick tree, sajna, kelow, saijihan, and marango, is a versatile plant with leaves and fruits commonly used in culinary and medicinal practices. It is native to the sub-Himalayan regions of North West India and common in tropical and subtropical countries.
In my home country the Philippines, we call it malungay and it’s typically cooked in stews and soups. It is also dried and consumed as a tea. Moringa is also well known in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat various illnesses including bacterial infections, skin problems, and many more . Moringa ointments have also been used for skin nourishment since ancient Egyptian times. Scientific research also confirms the medicinal ability of moringa’s various parts including leaves, fruits, and roots.
Different parts of the moringa tree (seed, roots, stems, leaves, fruits) contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, beta-carotene, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The leaves are particularly rich in vitamin C, calcium, beta-carotene, potassium, protein, as well as phenolic compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory side effects.
Here’s another fun fact, 100 grams of moringa leaves contain 10 times the vitamin A in carrots, 12 times the vitamin C in oranges, 17 times the potassium in bananas, 15 times the iron in spinach, and 9 times the protein of yogurt . Furthermore, moringa benefits are attributed to its phenolic content. It consists of flavonoids including catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, and kaempferol. Phenolic acids such as gallic acid, ellagic, and caffeic acids. Moreover, it also contains bioactive compounds such as alkaloids, glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, and thiocarbamates. Click on this link to get a full list of Moringa bioactive compounds.
The medicinal benefits of moringa have been realized for centuries. In traditional use, this plant was prescribed for skin infections, anxiety, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, chest congestion, and cholera . Moringa seeds are also used for stomach pains, ulcers, poor vision, and joint pain . Modern studies on the bioactivity of moringa also reveal a gamut of health benefits including:
- Can reduce inflammation in diseases such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
All parts of the moringa are nutritious and it can be consumed fresh, dried, or cooked. The leaves and fruit can be a healthy addition to stews and soups. The leaves can be dried, powdered, and added to food or consumed as a tea. Moringa oil or paste can also be used as a topical application for the skin. Some pharmaceuticals also extract nutrients from the entire plant and sell it as a dietary supplement .
Moringa and Lentil Stew Recipe
For this moringa lentil stew, I draw inspiration from Filipino (i.e. balatong) and Persian (adasi) cuisine. The idea is to create a stew with something savory (lentils), sweet/sour (tomato), leafy (moringa), firm (string beans), and flavorful (cumin, turmeric, onion powder, salt, and pepper). You can mix match different ingredients than the ones mentioned here, just make sure that you have all the flavors and textures discussed.
- 1 cup moringa leaves (stripped from the stem)
- 1 cup lentils (washed and drained)
- 5 cups string beans (snapped into bite-size portions)
- 1 large tomato (equivalent to 1 ½ cups diced)
- ½ cup uncut jalapeno and banana peppers (optional)
- 5 cloves of garlic (diced)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium) – I used Whole Food’s 365 brand
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 1 hr | Ready in 1 hr 15 mins
- In a saucepan, sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Add diced tomato and continue to sauté for 3 minutes.
- Add washed lentils, vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water as needed.
- Add string beans and peppers and let it cook for 5-10 minutes – or until string beans are tender.
- Stir in moringa leaves and spices, let it cook for 5 minutes, and you’re done! This dish is perfect served over steamed rice or flatbread.
Chef’s notes: Moringa leaves can be hard to come by, but they are sometimes available in Asian stores. In fact, my father supplies a Filipino grocery store with tons of moringa leaves and fruits. I also recommend growing it for a steady supply. It does well in a planter with plenty of sunlight and regular watering. If you can’t find fresh moringa but you still want all the medicinal benefits, you can purchase dried moringa online. You can make tea from dried moringa leaves and it tastes great with lemon and honey.