Moringa, known for its medicinal properties, is a nutrient-packed superfood that comes from the Moringa oleifera tree in India. A moringa tree’s leaves, pods, roots and flowers are all edible, and over the past few years, the many edible parts of the South Indian tree have been popularized in the West.
The leaves, pods and seeds of the moringa tree are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The leaves and seed pods, which are the most common parts of the plant, contain the greatest amount of nutrients. Moringa is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and protein. It also contains eight essential amino acids and more than 90 nutrients, including 46 different antioxidants and 36 anti-inflammatory compounds.
In many cultures, the moringa leaves are mostly eaten raw, boiled, steamed or roasted. However, moringa leaves are difficult to digest unless they are very tender. The leaves should be fully cooked before serving, usually by boiling them until they are easy to chew in the same way that collard greens are prepared. Moringa leaves are somewhat bitter and may seem especially bitter if you are not accustomed to leafy greens. Along with the bitterness, they have a slight spiciness, similar to the heat from horseradish. Add a note of acid or sweetness to cooked moringa leaves as a way to tame some of its bitterness. Options include mango powder and lime juice for their acidity, or honey or sugar for the sweetness. Moringa leaves can be used as substitutes for more traditional leafy greens like spinach or kale and work well in dishes such as lasagna, salads, soups and stews.
Moringa seed pods are endlessly versatile. Moringa pods are prepared the same way as okra or green beans and can be added to soups, stews, gravies or stir fries. When cooked, younger seed pods taste like asparagus, while older pods are used in curries and sauces. Due to their earthier flavor, moringa pods taste best when paired with hot, spicy and tangy flavors. Moringa seeds are prized for their bitter flavor and are commonly added to sauces, cooked or roasted like peanuts, or eaten as a fried snack.
Moringa seeds have a high oil content and contain many nutritional compounds, including monounsaturated fats, protein, sterols and tocopherols. Moringa oil comes solely from its seeds, not from its leaves or flowers, and is produced through a variety of industrial processes, including solvent extraction and cold-pressing. When used for cooking, moringa oil is an economical, nutritious alternative to more expensive oils. Oil from the seeds can be used in condiments, dressings or as a substitute for olive oil.
In powdered form, moringa is versatile enough to be added to both sweet and savory dishes. Moringa powder is bright green with an earthy bitterness similar to green tea matcha powder. Its mildly nutty flavor is subtle enough without throwing off the flavor profile of recipes too much. It’s easy to blend moringa powder into smoothies, shakes, soups and sauces, baked goods or steeped on its own as a tea. Moringa flowers can be steamed to make tea, added to sauces or made into pastes.
Often referred to as the “miracle tree,” moringa is highly beneficial and versatile, with uses for food, medicine and even industrial and agricultural uses.