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every traditional malayalee home has a tulsi plant in front of the house and a drumstick tree in the backyard. The drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) is commonly known as moringa in south India .
Its fruits, leaves and flowers are all edible. All these are an outstanding source of vitamins a, b and c. Their calcium content is also very high. Phosphorous is low, as it should be. What's more, they also have very low levels of fat and carbohydrate. The fruit is particularly very rich in iron. In fact, in the Philippines it is used to cure anaemia. It also has high protein levels. In his book ' Edible Leaves of the Tropics', Frank Martin says that the moringa leaves are an incomparable source of the sulphur-containing amino acids -- methionine and cystine.
The dried seeds of the tree can be used to purify turbid water. Other parts -- roots and the bark -- have medicinal value. Modern science has proved that the tree has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Moringa leaves, flowers and fruits can be used in salads, soup or curry. Here are some popular recipes I borrowed from my better-half, Shirley. I am not sure who owns the intellectual property rights!
moringakka thoran : Peel the skin of six drumsticks and cut them into two pieces. Cook the pieces along with salt and turmeric powder. Grind three green chillies with a sprig of curry leaves and add the paste to the cooked pieces. Heat one tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan, and then add some mustard and cumin seeds, eight chopped onions and a sprig of curry leaves. When the onions turn brown, add the cooked drumsticks along with half a cup of boiled chana dal . Stir well. Garnish with grated coconut. The moringakka thoran is ready.
moringa-chemeen thoran : Cook 250 grammes of peeled prawns along with six chopped drumsticks, coarsely cut two green chillies, curry leaves and salt to taste. Grate half a coconut, and fry till it turns brown. Make a fine paste of the following: one tablespoon of coriander powder, one teaspoon of chilly powder, a pinch of turmeric powder, one-fourth teaspoon of cumin seeds and half a teaspoon of pepper powder. Add the paste along with enough water in the cooked prawns and drumsticks, and simmer till the gravy becomes thick. Then heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan, and then add mustard seeds and chopped onions. Fry till the onions turn brown. Thereafter, put the prawn-drumstick curry in it and stir well. After a few seconds, you can be all set to serve a delicious dish.
moringaela thoran : Heat a wok. Put two tablespoons of oil in it along with one tablespoon of urad dal, half a tablespoon of mustard seeds, one or two whole red chillies and one sprig of curry leaves. Add one chopped onion in the mixture and saut till the onions turn pink. Add 200 grammes of washed drumstick leaves, salt to taste and a little water to cook. Cover till cooked. Then garnish with half a cup of grated coconut. The smell itself is enough to make your mouth water.
moringapu thoran : In a pan, place 200 grammes of drumstick flowers and one chopped onion and cook with a little water and salt to taste. Then add half a cup of cooked chana dal to this and saut till water evaporates. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add a pinch of asafoetida, one tablespoon of urad dal , half-a-tablespoon of mustard seeds, one or two whole red chillies and one sprig of curry leaves. When mustard starts crackling and the dal turns golden brown, add seasoning to the cooked dish. Garnish with half a cup of grated coconut and be ready to win a few hearts.
M K Prasad is a noted environmentalist and the former president of Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad