21 Apr2009


At the beach last week, we spent a morning hacking through the shrubs and vines that seemed determined to choke our ornamental plants and several small saplings and hardwood trees that we have planted over the years. It was also a time to decide which trees had to be “retired” (very old papaya trees) and which ones needed pruning, for a healthier comeback once the rainy season hits in July or August. The malunggay (horseradish tree) out back had hardly any leaves left after the last month of harsh summer heat and it had dozens and dozens of seed pods (drumsticks) at a very mature green stage and at the nearly totally dried out brown and seed stage. We decided to prune the tree completely back to its main trunk and we gathered many of the seed pods…


It always amazes me that after nearly 5 years maintaining this blog, and the thousands of posts I have written, I find that the more I discover, the more I realize how much I don’t know. When I first came across the malunggay pods in a local market, they were “new” to me and I had never cooked with them before. Yet for others, they were as common an ingredient as say kangkong or water spinach. At any rate, I have previous posts on both the tree and the pods, above, and you may want to look those up for more details. What fascinated me this time around were the nearly dried out brown pods which when cracked open, yeilded dozens of seeds and “wings” on the seed that would help them travel some distance from the tree when they finally opened up and were swept along by a breeze.


Just two weeks before, The Teen and I had tried photographing another seed with large helicopter like “wings” and if only for a few minutes, isn’t it just too cool to realize that nature had provided for the improved chances of propagation/survival of these plants by equipping them with a means to travel? We gathered several dozen of these seeds and I brought them with me to Cebu last week, and hopefully in a year or two I will have a stand of malunggay trees at the office to use whenever we cook up a simple soup or stew, Visayan style. You don’t need seeds to propagate malunggay… you can actually just cut off a sturdy branch and stick it into the soil which is kept moist and in a huge percentage of cases, you will see growth out of that cutting. But it’s always neater to grow something from seed, don’t you think?


This fascination for the natural, for the source of our food, for growing things and harvesting them and immediately cooking them is something that has captured my fancy more of late. I would love to have a huge vegetable garden, for example, but as I have stated before, I do believe I possess a black thumb. So maybe I will seek help from others to try and grow more and more food items on our own. Definitely fruits and vegetables. Maybe some free range chickens. Hmmm…



  1. Jenny says:

    hi MM! malunggay is supposed to promote lactation and is one of my staples as i’m nursing my daughter. i wonder if cooking these pods also have the same effect?

    Apr 21, 2009 | 8:54 am


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  3. marilen rodriguez says:

    the lowly ubiquitous malunggay blooms in these beautiful photos. isn’t it awesome to behold God’s creation in that tiny seed.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 9:07 am

  4. Lissa says:

    Malunggay pods are also a new discovery of mine. I just had the dish last month and was unsure as to how to eat it (scrape the pods out and ditch the tough exterior.) It was simply sauteed with garlic, onions, and lots of tomatoes. It was surprisingly delicious.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 9:26 am

  5. solraya says:

    You should get those Malunggays that have fruits that measure 1 meter long :) Very nice to look at the garden, and may be part of your “grow your own” garden.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 9:27 am

  6. Ann says:

    reminds me of the story about my dad’s grandfather, when a neighbor would ask him for some malunggay leaves, for the nth time, he finally had enough so he took out his bolo, chopped off a piece of the tree and told him to go and plant his own malunggay tree.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 9:29 am

  7. Jun b says:

    Even the indians here in Singapore use malunggay for their curry sauce. I’m fortunate enough that I can buy fresh malunggay pods and leaves here. The malunggay leaves goes to tinola, ginataan alimasag and hipon while the pod goes to ginisang munggo, pinakbet and curry sauce for roti prata bread.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 9:33 am

  8. Apicio says:

    Are they called drums? Drumsticks seems more descriptive. I suspect these pods have to be harvested really young just like okra or patola to be entirely edible, say long before the cellulose develops into indigestible wood pulp. In fact the dried pods look like dried mature okra.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 10:58 am

  9. Marketman says:

    Apicio, you are correct. I went back and read my own post and yes, the Indians refer to them as drumsticks, post has been revised. Thanks. :)

    Apr 21, 2009 | 11:01 am

  10. peanuts! says:

    hi marketman. us ilocanos use the malunggay pods as an ingredient in our pinakbets. it requires longer cooking though for the inside of the pod to be penetrated by the braising liquid.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 11:49 am

  11. Marketman says:

    peanuts!, yes, it is good in a pinakbet, I featured it in this previous post, here.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 11:53 am

  12. wilde says:

    Malunggay is a staple veggie in the Ilocos region.

    Dinengdeng na malunggay (pods and leaves in bagoong isda) is my favorite dish of all time!

    Apr 21, 2009 | 11:59 am

  13. siopao says:

    it is easy enough to grow malunggay from a cutting but there is also an advantage to growing them from seed. malunggay leaves that come from old trees or grown from a cutting from an old tree gets more bitter as it ages. a young tree that has grown from seed yields more mellow flavored leaves

    Apr 21, 2009 | 12:48 pm

  14. Marketman says:

    siopao, cool… I had no idea… hmmm, no wonder I sometimes used to think malunggay I was eating was particularly unpleasant. I wasn’t a big fan of the leaves as a kid.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 12:50 pm

  15. bernadette says:

    i have experienced that planting malunggay stalks do not make malunggay trees. My husband said I planted it wrongly kaya namamatay etcetera so did the planting himself. He has experience being a gardener when he was in college. Well, he had to eat some humble pies himself later when the stalks he planted also withered. Meanwhile, our neighbor (from whom we would ask the stalks from) has an “orchard” of them! He (out of pity perhaps) finally gave us a small tree with roots and it really has been trying its best to grow. But then our soil is clay-ey and our garden too full of trees and rainforest plants. It’s not having a green nor black thumb, MM, it’s really soil and location.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 12:53 pm

  16. betty q. says:

    No malunggay seeds here I can plant. However, every year I continue to be amazed at how a tiny seed can grow taller than me! …and to think they are just pinsized seeds…my tomato seeds! Yes, MM, it is so rewarding BUT backbreaking! I just transplanted 55 cherry tomato seedlings of different colors …LIME GREEN (when ripe), golden yellow, orange, chocolate brown and the usual red but strawberry shaped and 20 really long Roma tomatoes. Those cherry tomatoes are very, very , very sweet….also makes wonderful tomato-bocconcini, salsas (think color on your plate!).

    If anyone out there is interested in any color cherry tomatoes, let me know…ONLY LOWER MAINLAND please. They will be ready to be out in the garden by Victoria long week-end. Protect them from slugs and cutworm by putting a cover (I use a plastic milk jug with cut out bottom also to keep them warm esp. at night!

    Apr 21, 2009 | 2:47 pm

  17. Sheryl says:

    I can relate with your sentiments, MM. My hubby and I are also dreaming of our very own River Cottage. :-)Someday, soon…

    Apr 21, 2009 | 3:29 pm

  18. marissewalangkaparis says:

    How cool is the thought that God also provided wings for the seeds to fly…..really cool..
    A suki in the market always offers fresh malunggay pods and it is only lately that I learned to appreciate this. So good in dinengdeng. My suki has all the ingredients for that…yum!!
    MM,part of my retirement dream is to have a small farm with veggies and free range chickens and a pig or two…
    Bettyq,I marvel how you have time to plant despite housework and the change in weather…salute!!
    Ted if you’re tuned in,I did try the kamias (not dried) for the tulingan–and you were right–PWEDE!!! I cooked the tulingan for seven hours(will try 9 to really get supersoft fish bones )on a really tiny flame and it was so good—thanks Marketman for the kamias blog. I now how a kilo (from a friend) now in the drying process,and I look forward to GayeN’s dried kamias…the tulingan was gone in a jiff. I will cook double the quantity now that I know how to do it.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 5:28 pm

  19. Lydia P says:

    On a trip from Vigan to Laoag a few months ago, we chanced upon a nice ice cream stand in San Ildefonso where they served among others, malungay ice cream. We, of course, had some of it. It was greenish in color but the flavor was more ‘beany’ – like maybe they cooked the young seeds, mashed it and used it to flavor the ice cream. Interestingly, they also had several other flavors like ampalaya, green mango, squash, bell pepper w/ cheese, etc. although they did not have all flavors available at that time.

    Apr 21, 2009 | 5:39 pm

  20. Ynna says:

    You should try raising sunshine chickens, MM. They can grow really big, almost turkey size from what I hear :)

    Apr 21, 2009 | 5:40 pm

  21. Gener says:

    DRUMSTICKS we called it-You can actually cook anyway you wanted but the best is either with pakbet or ginisa, is there any one here experienced eating the flowers???? I dont think so but try too…not bad at all, i learned it from indians..

    Apr 21, 2009 | 6:08 pm

  22. Ted says:

    marissewalangkaparis, if you want your tulingan bones to be soft, cook them in a pressure cooker, use the same ingredients. Line the cooker with banana leaves, then put in the pork fat (i use some chopped fresh side pork or bacon), then wrap your tulingan individually with the banana leaves as well but don’t seal it, use the same proportions of unfrozen or fresh kamias and scatter them around the cooker, and make sure you have enough water to almost cover the fish and of course some vinegar. Set the stove to high, and once the pressure cooker starts to whistle, set it to medium and that’s when you time it for another 30-45minutes, depending on how big is your cooker, 30min for a small one. Your tulingan would have soft bones and no need to wait for 7-9hrs.

    Apr 22, 2009 | 7:54 am

  23. Bea says:

    The very very young pods can be eaten like sitaw.

    It’s essential that we keep propagating things both by seed and other methods (cuttings, etc). For healthier continuation of evolution!

    Though of course malunggay grows without maintenance in many places and the seeds are all over the place. But some fruit trees are no longer planted from seed because they take a long time to bear fruit. So we have all these grafted trees– they have shorter life span than those from seed, and are virtually clones of the parent plant.

    So next time you have seeds for anything– vegetables, fruit– as basura, chuck them in some soil. In a pot, in an empty lot, etc.

    Apr 22, 2009 | 11:46 am

  24. chris says:

    in the market along v.g. cruz in manila, they sell peeled young pods (looking like sitaw) along with pinakbet veggies, they also have himbabao or the string-like veggie which is not familiar to manilans or non-ilocanos. but i like them both and i feel like making a first-class pinakbet if i have the malunggay pods and himbabao included in the dish.

    Apr 22, 2009 | 9:03 pm

  25. miles says:

    malunggay does not grow in all soil types. it can be a bit picky at times. we do love eating the malunggay seed pods when young as they tend to toughen up as they mature.

    Apr 22, 2009 | 9:57 pm

  26. Joy says:

    Um, MM, if you’re ‘seeking help from others’ (ie having them do the work) you’re not exactly ‘growing food on our own’. I don’t think you suffer from a black thumb, but I do think you have a lazy a**. Sure, there’s some natural talent involved in growing fruits and veg (but really not much involved in raising chickens; I doubt that your ‘black thumb’ would kill off a crop of birds), but much of it is science, and if you were truly interested in making the effort I’m sure you could make a success of a kitchen garden or orchard.

    How about putting your money where your mouth is, getting out the hoe and shovel, and for once dirtying your hands a bit? Or is the ‘gentleman farmer’ role that you seek, directing ‘the crew’ as they bring farrow land to life and cover it with green things for you to harvest and then blog about?

    If that’s the case, it’s really not much different from hopping over to Salcedo and filling your basket, or driving up to Gil’s to take photos of veg and herbs in situ.

    Apr 23, 2009 | 9:56 am

  27. Marketman says:

    Joy, I would definitely describe myself as a “gentleman farmer” as you point out, and I am not in the least ashamed of it.

    I have in the past actually gotten my hands dirty, but by no means till a large vegetable garden on my own… I would rather spend the time blogging than doing that. However, if you have read into the archives of this blog, you would know that I have a very small kitchen garden in our city home, with at the moment, several kaffir lime bushes, kalamansi, dayap, rosemary, basil, betel leaf, bay leaves (very hard to keep alive), oregano, pandan, grape leaves(?!), galanggal, lemongrass, siling labuyo, etc. which is mostly cared for by the gardener who comes a couple of times a week. I have on many occasions planted many vegetables and herbs from seed, using potting mixes and little pots… wild arugula, tomatoes, peppers, pechay, etc. to pretty dismal results, I might add.

    At another location, I have along with everyone in the household planted dozens of trees on several occasions, many of which are now several storeys tall, and present a wonderful way to mark the years that have passed. We have also set aside a small kitchen plot at that location for a kitchen garden (say 6 m2), but since we only visit a few days a month, it has been a total disaster.

    When i go to Cebu, our office there now has a large area which could be turned into a vegetable garden, and while we haven’t quite done the real plunge into a full-fledged garden, we do grow chillis, ginger, green onions, capsicum, chicos, latundan bananas, lots and lots of tanglad or lemongrass, saba, tamarind, kalabasa, langka, and recently, the crew have planted corn. And we had three goats, that in the past six months have turned into five… Since I only visit that location a few days a month, obviously I would have to rely on others to maintain the crop…

    It would be nice to have more stuff grown in our backyard or office premises, if not only for our own consumption but everyone who works along with us in those locations. I also consider my consumer habits aimed at more market or farm acquired produce (even that at Salcedo or from Gil’s) to be an improvement over buying a lot more processed foods, heavily packaged foods, etc. from other sources.

    So while making a judgment that I have a “lazy ass” may be amusing or satisfying to you for some odd reason, I suspect it is you who is simply being an a**. :)

    Apr 23, 2009 | 4:54 pm

  28. betty q. says:

    MM, could it be that the seeds you planted are past their prime…maybe approaching being a geriatric?…hahahaha….what kind of potting mix do you use to start your seeds? Most preferable to use is a seed starting mix and not the garden soil. But you mix your own using peat moss. vermiculite. Also, if you want ot save seeds for following years, put htem in the FREEZER!!! I am not kidding…prolong shelf life. They become dormant but will wake up when you put them in your starting mix.

    When I go back there, I will bring a lot of seeds for you from my own vegetable plants I grew, start them for you there and then plant away!!!!

    Try this germination test…to avoid HAIR PULLING after baby-ing them!!!!! ….on a moist papertowel, scatter the seeds and cover with moist paper towel and put inside a zip plck bag. After a few days, if they come alive, then go ahead and plant that paper towel in the ground sans the zip plock!

    Oh, this is funny….I planted a bay leaf cutting a few years ago in the backyard. I am the one looking after the lawn. My hubby decided to be MASIPAG that day and offered to mow the grasss. Not only did he mow the grass, he MOWED THE BAY LEAF CUTTING AS WELL!!!! I went out and asked where is my bay leaf cutting? The look on his face is PRICELESSS!!!!!! I had a good laugh though…. I thought my bay leaf was a goner! BUT it grew back and now is a healthy 3 year old!

    Apr 24, 2009 | 12:23 am

  29. kit carpio says:

    We also call this “Hagod” the way we eat it too.
    AKA Morringga

    Apr 24, 2009 | 10:38 am

  30. Marketman says:

    bettyq, yes, I did use potting mix, apparently it is better than soil as soil can come with all kinds of bacteria and other stuff that can snuff out a seed… that was a revelation in and off itself. Often, I find I can get the seed to sprout, even get tomatoes to and inch or two in height, but they seem to die off soon after. Part of the problem may be the use of seeds say sourced in the states, and perhaps the little seedlings can’t adapt to the wickedly tropical weather here. But I haven’t had much more luck with seeds purchased locally. I even resorted to “cheating” and just buying trays of young seedlings from local nurseries but I seem to kill those off as well. :( You managed to plant a bay leaf cutting and it grew? Egads, I have tried so many times with bay leaves and keep my fingers crossed that the one I have now doesn’t die on me (but it is several years old now)…

    Apr 24, 2009 | 11:51 am

  31. betty q. says:

    When your tomato seedlings have about 2 sets of leaves, do you repot them to a bigger pot? I start mine using just the egg cartons (styrofoam with hole punched in the botttom). When the 2 sets of leaves emerge, I transplant them to a 12 oz. styrofoam cups (reusable for years) burying the stem up to the top leaves…roots will emerge up to that point. They are indoors. right? Then when they are ready to be put in the ground, try to climatize them by puttting them outside (if too hot….shaded and up to a few hours only each day bringing them indoors). My transplanting index is when the stem turn color from light green to a dark reddish greenish hue and the stem…abit thickened by now.

    Maybe those seedlings that you buy from nurseries haven’t been “hardened off” yet or climatized. Usually they come straight from the greenhouses and out to retail desksor counters.

    OK,MM….just so you know, I also thought I had a black thumb…hubby also thought so. Why? because I killed several CACTUS plants before I got married!

    If it is too hot there, try to make what we call a “COOLING CAP” and put that over yoour tomato seedlings once they are in the ground…a cooling cap looks like one of those things we used to do when we were kids…out of newspaper folded to make something like a boat. That is why I plant a few tomato seedlings in POTS so when the weather reaches to about 38 degrees, I move them around and under the shade. Sometimes, I have seen growers put something like a black cloth over the top of their makeshift hoop greenhouse to keep their plants shaded and remove them at night…lot of work to maintain and keep the plants happy!!!

    Apr 24, 2009 | 1:51 pm

  32. lina Pileggi says:

    Malluggay leaves & pods are popular Ilocano staple (pinakbet)of course! Please google The Moringa Tree-Trees for life International(Malluggay known in other country as Miracle tree for what it can do to nourish . This can be an answer to Marketmanila feeding program .Malluggay leaves can be used to different recipes instead of spinach or Gabi leaves. An Uncle from California had a project in Pangasinan of 24 acres of malluggay. Please research & put more information in your website abt. The Moringa tree . Thanks

    Apr 25, 2009 | 2:02 am

  33. Ted says:

    Betty Q, i know about that cooling cap you mentioned. When i was in grade school and for my gardening class, we use the bark of banana tree (is it a tree?) hehehe and we cut the bark to maybe 6-8 inches and fold them like a teepee and put them over any seedling we just transplanted. I think having a green/black thumb is a falacy, it has something to do with the soil ph and the climate zone. You just need to know what kind of soil you have, and the climate zone you are in and when buying plants, use that as a guide.

    Apr 25, 2009 | 4:25 am

  34. Laura says:

    Hello MM – I’m just amazed at your patience with very offensive comments – seems like Joy woke up on the wrong side of the bed & wasn’t JOYful at all! Anyway, thanks for the malunggay info. We used to have a malunggay tree but never tried the pods. Thanks for the cooking tips.

    Apr 25, 2009 | 8:38 am

  35. millet says:

    one sunday morning a few months back, we bought three little ducklings for my nephews to play with, but knowing that the kids would not be able to take care of the creatures, we brought them back home in the afternoon and promptly put them in a cage. in a few days, two of the ducklings had died. we decided to let the the duckling out of the cage and on to the backyard garden. it proceeded to eat everything in sight..scallions, kailan, mint, basil, camote, etc. we gave it kitchen scraps too, and it grew fast and fat, definitely 100% organic and free-range. however, it had eaten up almost practically all of the kitchen garden.

    last week, we finally had it in a delicious pato tim. my son says it tasted so good because of all the herbs it had been eating.

    and no, it was never a pet and we never gave it a name….it was always “pato tim-to-be”. :-)

    Apr 27, 2009 | 7:14 am

  36. risa says:

    Two things I HEARD about malunggay:
    1. Malunggay absorbs metals readily than other plants (e.g. lead). My brother in law (UP Dept of Bio) conducted a study on this and advised that I ask vendors where the malunggay I buy comes from since he knew I love malunggay. He says I should avoid those from Metro Manila. He tested samples in Bulacan located near a battery manufacturing plant, and said they were toxic.
    2. They don’t eat malunggay in East Timor. They are treated as ornamentals.

    Apr 27, 2009 | 1:20 pm

  37. Kelly says:

    I have eaten a seed per day raw years back when I was suffering from arthritis. Wa-la it was gone in a week and never came back since. It was 17 years ago. Now i have to gather a jar probably since I realized the amazing benefits this “taken for granted by pinoys” plant can give your body.

    May 16, 2009 | 9:43 pm

  38. doverdoods says:

    did you know that a kilo of malungay seeds cost P1,500.00 ?

    Aug 2, 2009 | 10:19 am

  39. doverdoods says:

    the Alaminos goat farm in Laguna are now propagating malungay thru seed planting as a legume feeds for their dairy goats.

    Aug 2, 2009 | 10:21 am

  40. teresse says:

    how many months malunggay will grow?

    Jan 17, 2010 | 3:38 pm

  41. Manuel Guaderrama G. says:

    Somos una Empresa Social (No lucrativa) que trabajamos en zonas áridas del Estado de Querétaro, México con una serie de microclimas en cañadas y sierras. Zonas de alta y muy alta marginación y pobreza; por lo que nos gustaría conocer más de este árbol y su cultivo, ya que consideramos que se puede ensayar en diferentes áreas la producción de este alimento que por sus características bien puede representar una alternativa.
    Favor de informarnos que costo tendría obtener semilla.
    Agradecemos sus atenciones
    Ing. Agr. Manuel Guaderrama Gonzalez
    Gerente de proyectos de Desarrollo Territorial Rural
    Pro AGRO Empresarial, AC
    Agencia de Desarrollo Territorial Rural
    Querétaro, Qro. México
    Móvil +52(442)3647853

    Jun 4, 2010 | 9:27 am

  42. maria luisa says:

    how many days the seed of plant grow

    Sep 14, 2010 | 10:59 am

  43. bevelyn says:

    where can i buy malunggay seeds in manila? thanks

    Sep 22, 2010 | 11:02 pm

  44. franz says:

    i wouldn’t eat the roots of the malunggay plant. it contains a mild toxin which paralyzes people.

    Nov 24, 2010 | 11:59 am


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