Marungay: The Miracle Tree

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Marungay tree leaves. Darde Gamayo photo.

Moringa, better known in Hawai‘i as marungay (locally pronounced mah-roon-guy) is native to the southern region of the Himalayas in India. It is widely cultivated throughout the tropic and sub-tropic regions of the world.

It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree and can grow in height close to 40 feet.

There is real value to this tree, also sometimes called “The Tree of LIfe.”


The tree has vivid little green leaves and pretty white blossoms along with the long seed pods. Marungay is sometimes referred to as the “drumstick tree” based on the appearance of its long, slim, triangular seed pods. It is also called the “horseradish tree” because the taste of the roots is very similar to horseradish.

For centuries, the young seed pods and leaves have been eaten as a vegetable.

Interestingly it can also be used for water purification and hand washing and sometimes is used medicinally.


The nutritional value not only comes from its leaves but also the bean pods and flowers of this tree.

The leaves are the most nutritional part of this tree, containing vitamins A, B and C as well as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese and protein. It is reported that the level of vitamin C in the leaves is seven times more than that found in oranges.

It is considered to be a superfood because its fresh leaves contain the essential amino acids that our bodies need. The leaves can be eaten raw and resemble the taste of a peppery watercress or cooked they taste like cooked spinach.


In Hawai‘i, the leaves are commonly added to soups, especially the local favorite “chicken papaya soup,” and the young bean pods are cut into pieces and boiled with seasonings till tender then the middle fleshy part of the bean is eaten.

Marungay tree. Darde Gamayo photo.

In other parts of the world, the leaves are often dried then ground into powder and used in soups and sauces, and the seeds are steamed or boiled, either shelled or in the pod, like peas or green beans. They can also be seasoned and roasted as a snack food.

They are packed with nutrients, making them as popular as the leaves in many meals and recipes.

Locals often jokingly say that if you see a marungay tree in someone’s yard, it’s guaranteed they’re Filipino.

All jokes aside, it’s a tree we all should be planting in our yards.

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