Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Sprinkle a Day

When my brother and I were growing up, the treatment of choice for asthma was a medicine called Theo-Dur. To tempt little asthmatics like us, Theo-Dur was packaged in sprinkle form. I can certainly understand the marketing ploy – why not subvert children’s inherent aversion to medicine and take advantage of their pure, innocent, instinctive love of sprinkles on ice cream? And, the doctor assured us, you could also sprinkle them on applesauce! And pudding! They will make every food more fun!

Well, they didn’t. My brother and I hated Theo-Dur sprinkles.

Theo-Dur sprinkles may have been the first thing in my life that I reluctantly consumed because it was good for me, but it certainly wasn’t the last. I try not to remember, for example, those tasteless celery-sticks I ate in high school because they were rumored to have “negative” calories. My present-day equivalent of Theo-Dur sprinkles is moringa. Moringa oleifera is a tree that grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas, and its leaves, fresh or dried, have many amazing properties. Three times the potassium of bananas! Four times the vitamin A of carrots! Four times the calcium in milk! It is for good reason that the tree is promoted here in Zimbabwe by organizations concerned about people’s nutrition, particularly the nutrition of people living with HIV and AIDS. Leaf powder can be added to any food! It adds flavor and nutrition! Sadly, however, one of moringa’s amazing properties is not tastiness.

Undeterred, my husband has been dusting dried moringa leaves onto his yogurt and muesli breakfast, and even his oats and brown sugar breakfast, for quite a while now. I tried it once, insisted it made my breakfast taste like grass, and thereafter turned up my nose at the stuff. Grassy might be a favorable description when discussing a chardonnay, but not my morning muesli.

I recently discovered that I’m a bit anemic, though, and now instead of just giving me a “but it’s SO good for you” look of guilt every morning as I snub the moringa, Mark has become quite pushy. You see, one of moringa’s amazing qualities is that it is a good sourse of iron. Sigh. Rather than face grassy muesli every morning, however, I decided needed to find a better conduit for the healthy green stuff. Today, I had a breakthrough.

Zimbabwe’s electricity situation is bad and getting worse, and this afternoon we only had power in half of our house (strange, but true). This meant I had a functioning oven, but a non-functional stovetop. I never realized how many baked meals actually require a little sauté action beforehand. It is really quite a few. I finally settled on preparing a tapas-like lunch of brushcetta, feta-stuffed peppadews, roasted broccoli (tossed with dried red chili, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper) and roasted green beans (tossed with salt). In an effort to add a little more zip to the roasted veggies, I prepared a yogurt-based dressing, and, in a burst of inspiration, added a healthy dose of the dreaded moringa. Its grass flavor blended right in, and the dried leaves accentuated the dressing's mellow green hue. I’ll add a sprinkle any time.

African Green Goddess Dressing

Plain Greek yogurt
Parsley, chopped
Scallion, sliced
Dried moringa leaves (optional)
Lemon juice

The amounts here are quite flexible – do what tastes good to you! Blend everything together using an immersion blender or food processor. Serve as a dressing or dip for roasted vegetables.


Himalayan said...


thanks for suggesting on adding taste to the moringa tree leaves. Is it the leaves or the 'beans' that has maximum nutritional value?


Carolyn said...


Well, it is really the leaves that are promoted as nutritious here in Zim. The pods, seeds and flowers can also be eaten, but I am not sure how nutritious they are. If any other readers do know, please share!


Anita said...

The drumstick tree is well known in India, especially in the South, where the pods and the leaves are used in everyday cooking. But I had no idea the leaves were so nutritious! I am going to find ways to include it into our diet from now on!

It has 7 times the Vitamin C as oranges, and as much protein as eggs!! (And is rumored to have aphrodisiac properties as well!)

Jeanne said...

Never heard of this tree but fascinated nonetheless. And isn't it funny the tasteless (or downright horrible things) that we will attempt to work into our diets to try and reap their benefits? My current one is soaked flaxseeds...

Good luck with the power situation. My dad in South Africa told me on Sunday night that he has bought a generator as the "load shedding" (read blackouts) are getting more frequent as winter deepens. Oi vay.

Rao said...

I bet even spinach would taste awful if it were dried and powdered and sprinkled on your cereal. Bleah!

Moringa is better used as a fresh vegetable; the young leaves can be used as any greens, and the young seed pods taste a bit like asparagus.

Instead of forcing yourself to eat the dry powder, maybe you could get some seeds and get a tree growing. They're frost tender, but otherwise hardy and they don't need watering once they're established...