Drumstick scientifically called as Moringa oleifera is commonly known as Shevaga (in Marathi), Murungai (Tamil), Muringnga (Malayalam) and Munagakaya (Telugu) in different Indian languages. Drumstick is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Moringa comes from the Moringaceae family.
It is an exceptionally nutritious vegetable tree with a variety of potential uses. The tree itself is rather slender, with drooping branches that grow to approximately 10 m in height. In cultivation, it is often cut back annually to 1 meter or less and allowed to re-grow so that pods and leaves remain within arm’s reach. The drumstick tree is grown mainly in semi arid, tropical and subtropical areas but grows best in dry sandy soil.
It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India and widely cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the Moringa tree can be used for food or has some other beneficial property. In the tropics, it is used as forage for livestock, and in many countries, Moringa micronutrient liquid, a natural anthelmintic (kills parasites) and adjuvant (to aid or enhance another drug) is used as a metabolic conditioner to aid against endemic diseases in developing countries.
The most valued and widely used part of this tree is the immature green pods which are commonly called as drumstick. They are prepared in various ways and taste excellent when added in the sambar, a popular lentil dish prepared in southern India. The drumsticks have a slight asparagus taste. The leaves of this tree are also edible and a variety of dishes can be prepared. The leaves are highly nutritious having a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron and potassium. The leaves of this tree are almost cooked and used like the spinach.
In addition to being used fresh as a substitute for spinach, its leaves are commonly dried and crushed into a powder, and used in soups and sauces. Murungakai, as it is locally known in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, is used in Siddha medicine. The tree is a good source for calcium and phosphorus. In Siddha medicines, these drumstick seeds are used as a sexual virility drug for treating erectile dysfunction in men and also in women for prolonging sexual activity. The Moringa leaves and pods are helpful in increasing breast milk in the breastfeeding months. One tablespoon of leaf powder provides 14% of the protein, 40% of the calcium, 23% of the iron and most of the vitamin A needs of a child aged one to three.
The flowers are also cooked and relished as a delicacy in West Bengal and Bangladesh, especially during early spring. There it is called shojne ful and is usually cooked with green peas and potato.
India is the largest producer of Drumsticks, with an annual production of 1.1 to 1.3 million tonnes of tender fruits from an area of 380 km². Among the other states are Andhra Pradesh that leads in both area and production (156.65 km²) followed by Karnataka (102.8 km²) and Tamil Nadu (74.08 km²). In other states, it occupies an area of 46.13 km². Tamil Nadu is the pioneering state in so much as it has varied genotypes from diversified geographical areas and introductions from Sri Lanka.
The fruit of the tree is quite popular as a vegetable in Asia and Africa. The fruit is a long thin pod resembling a drumstick. The fruit itself is called drumstick in India and elsewhere. Moringa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, particularly in the Philippines, South India and Africa.
In South India, it is used to prepare a variety of sambar and is also fried. In other parts of India, especially West Bengal and Bangladesh, it is made into a variety of curry dishes by mixing with coconut, poppy seeds, and mustard or boiled until the drumsticks are semi-soft and consumed directly without any extra processing or cooking. It is used in curries, sambars, kormas, and dals, although it is also used to add flavor to cutlets, etc. In Maharashtra, the pods are used in sweet & sour curries called Aamatee.
Tender drumstick leaves, finely chopped, are used as garnish for vegetable dishes, dals, sambars, salads, etc. It is also used in place of or along with coriander, as these leaves have high medicinal value. In some regions the flowers are gathered and cleansed to be cooked with besan to make pakoras.
The tree’s bark, roots, fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds, and gum are also used medicinally. Uses include as an antiseptic and in treating rheumatism, venomous bites, and other conditions. The drumstick tree is perennial, erect, slender, and medium sized with many arching branches. It is mostly grown as a backyard tree in most of the South Indian homes. It has drumstick like fruits, small white flowers and small and round leaves which are cooked and eaten as vegetable. It is antibacterial and a wonderful cleanser.
Nutritionally, drumstick pods and leaves are of great value as sources of carotene, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C. The leaves, flowers and fruits of drumstick which are used as vegetable have great nutritional value. The tender fruit is used in sambar and most dishes in South Indian homes. The leaves and flowers are used to prepare curry and cake.
Most parts of the drumstick tree has medicinal properties especially the leaves are beneficial in the treatment of many ailments as they are rich in iron content. The leaves serve as a tonic for infants and growing children. A vegetable prepared from leaves increases breast milk after child birth. Drumstick soup made with leaves and flowers as well as boiled drumsticks are highly valuable in preventing infections of all kinds such as that of the throat, chest and skin. This is because drumstick has antibacterial properties very much like penicillin and other antibiotics. Drumstick is also valuable in digestive disorders.
The nutritional values per 100 gms of edible portion of drumstick pods are:
Moisture: 86.9 %
Protein: 2.5 %
Fat: 0.1 %
Fiber: 4.8 %
Carbohydrates: 3.7 %
Calcium: 30 mg
Vitamin C: 120 mg
Iron: 5.3 mg
Phosphorus: 110 mg