RT Cunningham


Drumstick Tree - One of Many Names for Moringa Oleifera

drumstick tree The Filipino name for the drumstick tree is malunggay. It’s called by other names in other places. I never saw it sold in the United States but then I wasn’t looking for it.

It seems like it grows wild in the Philippines, like a weed, but it doesn’t. The reason it’s seen so much is because people spill seeds from the seed pods everywhere when they’re eating. It doesn’t take long for the seeds to take root in this tropical climate.

The name of this species of plant is Moringa oleifera. The English name is “drumstick tree” according to Wikipedia but I’ve never heard it called that anywhere. I’ve heard it called “moringa” in some places, but never in the United States.

The Drumstick Tree

I’m sure you can find it in some Asian markets, but I doubt it’ll be called “drumstick” anything. If you live in a place where it can grow (not in the cold areas of the country - frost and snow will kill it), you’re probably better off growing your own. That is, if you can get your hands on some of the seed pods.

If you don’t want it taking over your yard, cut the top off when it reaches three or four feet tall. You can eat most of the tree. The immature seed pods are “drumsticks”. You can eat them then or wait until they mature. You can eat the leaves and you can eat the flowers. You can probably eat everything but the trunk and the stems.


The drumstick tree is a powerhouse of nutritional value. According to what I’ve read, it has (gram for gram):

And that’s just the leaves. The seed pods contain even more calcium.

I laugh when I see some of the commercials on local television. One of them, for ramen, proudly proclaimed “now with more malunggay”. I haven’t seen it in a while but I rarely watch local television. Our wide-screen TV is usually tuned to the channel with all the romantic dramas on it (daytime and nighttime soaps).

The Taste

From what I can tell, most Filipinos like the taste of the leaves and drumsticks from the drumstick tree. It must be an acquired taste (one that I haven’t acquired). I’ve seen one sister-in-law in particular adding it to the food she cooks several times a week. She has six children and they’re all healthy.

I don’t like the taste. My wife, Josie, once made a kind of tea with it and had me drink it. I didn’t like that at all. Now, if she sprinkled the raw leaves on a salad, I would have no problem with it. If it’s mixed in with other vegetables, I probably won’t notice the taste.

I tried the drumsticks once. Never again, thank you. No, I didn’t eat the tubes. I sucked the flesh out just like everyone around me.

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By RT Cunningham
July 14, 2017

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