The drumstick tree, as it is known in India or the Moringa Oleifera, is a well known tree. The stick like seed pod is commonly cooked and at home is mandatory for sambar, the leaves although being highly nutritious are seldom used in our house. Even though we had a tree by our window all through our childhood years in Bombay, my mother, in spite of knowing that it was edible, seldom prepared it. They themselves ate it during their childhood, but only in its capacity as a medicine or probably as some kind of famine food during hard times. Even when I go home for Christmas every year, and we have a tree growing in our garden, she won’t prepare it unless I insist. This time I did. The flowers of the Moringa are edible as well.

DSC_0383-300x229This is prepared and served when some one in the family usually has loose bowels or some similar stomach problem or digestive problem. However on comparing notes with mum’s sisters, I figured out that the drumstick leaves are more or less an added source of nutrition, as the key ingredient which seems to effect the cure appears to be the sliced onions fried in ghee (clarified butter). So if you are going to use this recipe as medicine and you don’t have drumstick leaves on hand, you can go ahead and skip it. I haven’t tried it though.. So here goes.

Warning: The wood of this tree is known to be brittle, avoid climbing it to get at the leaves or you might join the likes of Humpty Dumpty!


  • A bunch of drumstick leaf stalks which should yield you about two cups of leaves after cleaning.
  • A tablespoon or so of ghee which is clarified butter. (This is known to have a cooling effect on the body)
  • One large or a few small onions sliced
  • Rice for two persons prepared in the usual way. (Yes, this serves two)


Vitamin Soppu (leaves) thats its local name often mixed with other green leaves can be used instead of Moringa leaves as well.

Mum discovered an easy way to get the leaves off the stalks which would otherwise become a tedious task. She’d put the stalks in a poly bag and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Then she’d shake out the leaves in the bag in the morning and discard the stalks. I haven’t tried it, but it might work even if you leave the leaves to wilt outside the refrigerator. I’ve heard of people doing something similar by wrapping the stalks in newspaper and allowing them to wilt overnight -once again, I haven’t tried that.

Wash and drain the leaves. Add the ghee to a wok or kadai. When it is hot, add the onions and stir fry till it turns reddish (important). Then add the drum stick leaves and stir fry till it is partly cooked and lastly add the cooked rice. Stir fry till it is done and it assumes the colour and consistency of fried rice.

Other leaves of equivalent thickness like methi (fenugreek), “vitamin” leaves, spinach etc.. can be added instead of drum stick leaves. If the leaves are quite large like palak (spinach) leaves, then they will have to be chopped up before they can be used.

CREDITS: | Manorama Soans |

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