Introducing moringa, your next “superfood” powder, which, while it seems to be all over the place on health food sites and even Amazon, I first encountered last week on a trip to Belize. While most people might go to the beaches and Caye’s of this small country, when my husband JimmyChiv and I go to Belize, we stay in San Ignacio near the jungle, about 5 miles from the Guatemalan border. We like the bird watching opportunities, the many Mayan ruins and cities from the past and the flora. Of course, I’m mostly interested in the food and drink -- how they make the tortillas or use coconut, which fruit juice is best with my 3 Barrel rum -- important things like that.
One of my first stops is the big farmers’ market in town where we can buy tomatoes, plantains, and tropical fruits along with meat and fish. We pick up snacks like salty squash seeds and dried banana. On our most recent trip, we found an expat selling his own brand of peanut butter, Red Parrot, made with just peanuts and sea salt as well as granola bars with Belizean made cacao nibs and honey. He also had little baggies of herbs and spices, including chia, turmeric and this new (to me) green powder I hadn’t heard of before, moringa. He was a bit taken aback that I hadn’t heard of it before, and so was I after I looked into it more! How did I not know about this? So I snatched some up to try out.
In the past, I’ve told you all about matcha, that bright green tea powder from Japan which in the US and other Western countries we’ve identified as a “superfood”. For awhile there I was frothing up matcha just about daily and ordering matcha lattes and shakes when I could find them. Next came turmeric, dark orangy brown, aromatic and suddenly also ubiquitous in lattes and cooking of all kinds. I’ve even tried it in a cocktail. Now I know about moringa, another plant that cultures have been using for eons but we’ve “suddenly” discovered. And, yes, it’s being marketed as a superfood.
There are quite a few species of the tree (aka the miracle tree or drumstick tree) but the one that’s cultivated the most is Moringa oleifera, found in India at the foothills of the Himalayas. Other species are found throughout Africa and Asia and since it grows well in the tropics, in Belize, too. Roots, leaves, flowers, pods, a seeds -- you can use it all. The roots taste a bit like horseradish I was told.
As you can imagine, every part of the tree is packed with nutrients. It’s not a “superfood” without them, right? High in vitamin C and iron , moringa leaves also have four times the vitamin A found in carrots, seven times the vitamin D in oranges, three times the potassium of a banana, three times the calcium found in milk and twice the protein of yogurt. As with any great nutritional plant or tree, it also has medicinal uses. It’s said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory uses as well as uses as an anti-diabetic and anti-cholesterol agent and so many more.
Like matcha or turmeric, you can use it in many ways. You can find the powder online and in health food stores and the leaves, dried or fresh, at Asian or Indian markets. You can sometimes find the pods there, too, which taste a bit like green beans. Use the earthy tasting powder in smoothies and lattes of course, but also use the leaves sprinkled atop your avocado toast or salad or used as a spinach substitute. In Africa, the powder is also used to make sauces. I made a tea from the dried leaves I bought and it was quite delicious.
Here’s a nice recipe from www.moringamix.com to get you started on using moringa ni your cooking:
’5 T. moringa leaf powder
1 lb of smoked fish, meat or chicken
¼ c. peanut butter
5 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 qt. water
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper or pepper flakes to taste
Put the water into the pot, add the meat or fish and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then add the peanut butter. Boil this mixture over high heat for 15 minutes with the pot uncovered. Add the moringa leaf powder and boil for 15 more minutes. Add the onion, garlic and spices. Cover the pot and simmer the sauce over a low heat for 15 minutes. Serve over rice or couscous.
2-4 kale leaves
1 T. almond butter
¾ cups coconut water
1 T. cacao powder
½ t. moringa leaf
1 cup ice
Place all smoothie ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
— Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter, NH and Austin, TX. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com