Malunggay garnering recognition as 'superfood' rich in antioxidants </p><p>

A young man shows plants of 'moringa' (specie from Moringaceae family) in a street of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 02 August 2012. After Cuban leader Fidel Castro promoted the cultivation of the moringa tree, interest in the wild-growing plant rose in Dominican Republic. In developing countries the plant has potential to improve nutrition. EPA/Orlando Barria

If you have a backyard garden with a meter or two of space to spare, best plant malunggay seeds. This is what Dr. Raffy Barrozo, organic agriculture expert and board member of the Moringaling Phlippines Foundation, Inc. (MPFI), advises.

Malunggay, or moringa, is a well-known backyard plant in the Philippines and has been garnering international attention for being a "superfood" rich in nutrients and minerals.

For every pound, malunggay has seven times more Vitamin C than oranges, three times more potassium that bananas, four times more Vitamin A than carrots, two times more protein and four times more calcium than milk, according to the MPFI.

Malunggay is rich in antioxidants that can prevent several lifestyle-related ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, heart problems, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Urban gardening

"All houses should have malunggay: two or three plants of malunggay for their use as vegetables, kasi mabilis lang naman siya [tumubo]. Once it gets established, you don’t have to take care of it that much," Barrozo said.

Barrozo is also an organic farmer who has a quarter hectare of land where he plants malunggay along with other crops.

The first six months is the most critical stage of the malunggay plant. One must protect it from excessive rain and flooding since malunggay lives on very little water. The best time to plant malunggay is during the summer when rain is scarce. After that, the tree will continue to live and shoot several branches which one can harvest.

"The key is, palakihin mo siya para harvest ka na lang nang harvest. It’s best to plant it and use organic fertilizer through biodegradable kitchen composting," he said.

If taken care of properly, the malunggay tree can live up to a hundred years, occupying about two meters of land. If you don't have a backyard where you can plant a malunggay tree, Barrozo suggests getting a huge container, about half of a 200-liter blue drum, filling it with compost, and planting the seed there.

After two years, a healthy tree can produce about half a kilogram of harvestable

leaves every two months. A five-year-old tree can give you up to one-and-a-half kilograms every two months, while a seven-year-old tree can give you two kilograms every two months.

"As it gets bigger it gets more leaves, but you have to cut it. You prune the stems so that it produces more branches and you harvest more leaves," Barrozo said.

It is possible to grow a malunggay tree in the city through urban gardening. But it is best to plant it somewhere away from major highways where the amount of pollution is great.

Malunggay, like many plants, is an effective absorber of carbon dioxide. If it is planted near the highways, it consumes the carbon dioxide and other pollutants as well.

Malunggay for a healthy lifestyle

Malunggay can be cooked and eaten with rice, but MPFI board secretary Elena Van Tooren suggests drying the leaves, blending it until it is pulverized, and adding it to food or juice.

Malunggay leaves can be dried by bundling the harvested branches up and hanging them upside down to dry in the sun. Make sure that a mat would catch the dry leaves that would fall off. 10 kilograms of fresh malunggay shrinks to one kilogram when dried, Barrozo said, making dried malunggay richer and more concentrated. It loses its Vitamins A and C content when dried, but it does retain the rest of its nutrients.

Van Tooren recommends taking one tablespoon a day for people who want to stay healthy, and two tablespoons for those suffering from health issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

For pregnant women, she recommends taking three tablespoons a day. Malunggay is also sold as powder, tea, and capsules. – KDM, GMA News

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