Thursday, April 2, 2009

Drumstick Tree - Moringa oleifera

Before coming to India i only knew that fruits, or at the most flowers, are eatable, but not leaves of trees. In Italy we eat zucchini flowers, or we make sweet fritters with the drooping inflorescence of Robinia.
I love trees so much, the Indian trees are unique for their beauty and i have been intrigued by the idea to experiment with a simple and quick recipe, just to feel the real taste.
Stir fry is my favorite way to cook anything that i never cooked before.
No curry please, no masala, i want to taste the real thing, at the most with garlic and a little of Kashmiri chili.
It never happened until few days ago, because leaves are not sold in the market [only the pods are sold regularly] and i don't have a tree in the backyard, neither i am able to climb trees like a monkey.

The gift came in a plastic bag full of red ants, and that was not nice, because in the house where i live now i never had red ants, and i didn't want to start a new family of ants here.
Immediately i put everything in a big tub under the running water, hoping to get rid of the red ants as soon as possible, sending them down the drainage pipe. Sorry but i am allergic to red ants and i got enough bites i can't forget - the sting is painful.
Here they are before washing - yeah i didn't know yet there were guests in the tub.

And here they are after more than one hour washing and getting rid of the stalks that fortunately do not float [like the leaves and the flowers], but get loose and sink to the bottom, well almost all of them.

After the bath they were really so gorgeous and honey smelling that i decided to make fritters and pancakes topped with honey.
They were good, but where are the pictures? Uh, you need to ask my guests, or better i should call them conscious cavia daring to taste the unknown in my kitchen lab.
I am going to make few fritters again, just for the pictures. [see the pancake here]

But the day after i did the stir fry with garlic and Kashmiri chili.
And i didn't forget to take the pictures.

I had it with cheese toast, and i loved the slight bitterness that instead in the sweet fritters was totally absent. I think next time i am going to make it with plain boiled rice tossed in the pan after the leaves are done, adding cheddar cheese cubes until they melt - the same way i cook fenugreek leaves.

The pods of drumstick are delicious and very popular in India and i love them in Sambar, with dals and in the fish curry, with dried fish Tamil style.

Would you like to see this wonderful tree? I could not take any nice picture of the drumstick trees around my house, they stand close together with some other trees their branches entangled above, so let me google that for you.


  1. I love the picture of the drumstick flowers n leaves ... its so fresh n beautiful
    I can smell the fragrance ... yes mmmmnn
    The pancake you made last with lots of leaves n flowers was the best for me, delicious ... I can almost taste it
    And I did think that also it would be nice with garlic n Kashmiri chilli
    ... yes, tossed with rice would be a complete meal
    So when should I come?? heh heh

  2. And today was much better! You come whenever you like but first you need to send your mali up the tree to collect some flowers and leaves, i just finished them all.

  3. Enrica, sono fiori dell'albero di drumstick che non ha nessun nome in italiano. Il nome botanico è Moringa Oleifera. I fiori profumano quasi come la Robinia, ed e' per questo che mi hanno ispirato la frittella dolce.

  4. Ah by the way, I've instructed my mali to cut you 2 slim bamboos from my garden, so soon you'll have your pasta hangers!

  5. mmmhh mmhh very curious about this original recipe!!! ... daaammn l wish to sit there amongst you fellas to enjoy this breakthrough way of cooking!!!!

  6. Darshan, this is not so original because i knew that these leaves and flowers are regularly cooked in the South of India, of course with the usual spices, in soups or curries. If you google "drumstick leaves recipe" you will find a lot.
    But what is really original is the pancake, in fact i think no one in India has ever thought to make something sweet with these leaves that are quite bitter. I wish to be there in Japan :))

  7. Thanks Poonam for the bamboos!
    I will make pappardelle again when this terrible hot season is over.



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