Marungay: The Miracle Tree

January 13, 2017, 9:46 AM HST (Updated January 13, 2017, 9:49 AM)
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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.

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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.

Darde Gamayo
Darde Gamayo wen graduate from Honoka'a High & Intermediate in 1986. Her also known as “Tita Nui,” cause her one tita en her is nui. Her is da winna of da 2009 Ms. Aloha Nui Contess. Which is wat wen help her get her da job on da numba 1 rayjo station on dis island, KAPA Rayjo! Her is da weeken mid day DJ. You can catch her on KAPA from 6 p.m. to midnight Mondayz true Fridayz. Her is one blhog writah fo da BigIslandNow.com. Her write bout all kine stuffez, like how da mongoose wen come hea, wat collah da sand on da beach, pineapple in yo food and wat eva kine stuff her tink of. Her get choken udda stuff her like fo do like, write, read, go fishin' and her love to cook too... And wen you look at her you no she like fo eat, too! Her stay livin in Waipi‘o Valley with her honey, Darren, and the rest of their ‘ohana.

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