Biyernes, Oktubre 3, 2008

Malunggay: A Wealth for our Health


Most of our favorite vegetables are indigenous in the Philippines. One of these is “malunggay” which has the scientific name of Moringa olifera Lamk. It is also known as Horseradish tree and Drumstick Tree. Here in our country, it is usually called Kalunggay by the Bicolanos, Kamalongan or Malunggay by the Visayans, Kalamunge by the Kapampangans and Arunggay or Marunggay by the Ilokanos and Pangasinenses.

Botanical Description

The plant is a small tree, eight meters (8m) or less in height, with corky bark and soft white wood. The leaves are alternate and 25-50 cm long. There are 3-9 leaflets on the ultimate pinnules. These leaflets are thin, ovate to elliptic and 1-2 cm long. The flowers are white and 1.5 – 2 cm long. The loosely hanging pod is 15-30 cm long, three-angled and has nine ribs. The seeds are three-angled and winged on the angles.

Adaptability and Availability

Malunggay is strictly a tropical plant and grows well at lower elevations, both under wet and seasonal conditions. However, it can thrive up to 1, 300 meters altitude.  It can be grown in various soils but thrives best in fertile, well-drained sandy loams. Malunggay is planted throughout the country especially in the Central and Northern provinces.

Cultural Practices

Malunggay cuttings or seedlings are planted before the onset of the rainy season. Commercially, mature cuttings two or more centimeters in diameter and not less than 80 centimeters in length are preferred, as sprouts come out earlier and grow much faster. In preparing the cuttings, the desired branches are cut clean and planted directly in the field at a depth of not more than 30 centimeters. In some places in Northern Philippines where it is planted not only for vegetable but also for fencing purposes, cuttings are planted at a distance of one meter. The ideal distance is 5 meters each way to give room for the expansion of the tree top.

Malunggay needs little care, apart from watering during initial growth. For good growth and high fruit yield, the application of organic fertilizer during the first year and inorganic nitrogen fertilizer once or twice a year is recommended. Malunggay can survive drought but supplementary irrigation during a long dry season will be helpful. Old and weak branches are removed to promote regrowth and regulate the tree shape.

Pest and Disease Management

The main insect pests are aphids, mites and insects that eat the fruit wall.  However, the extent of damage is very minimal and odes not require pest control measures.

Harvesting and Postharvest Handling

To enjoy eating the vegetable, select medium tender leaves or young leaves. Care must be taken in gathering the leaves to avoid damaging young sprouts and buds. Young fruits are mixed in salads. Fruits harvested in the afternoon at 500-100 piece each and brought to the market the following day. The fruits and leaves are wrapped with banana leaves in order to keep them fresh.

Food Preparation:

Malunggay can be cooked with other vegetables and/or into viands including pinakbet, nilaga, and tinola and even in omelette.

Uses and Importance

Malunggay has multiple uses. The young fruits are a good substitute for yard long bean (sitaw) often used in curries. The contents of stewed fruits are sucked and the tough valves are thrown away. The leaves and flowers are eaten as cooked vegetable or put in soups.  Fried seeds taste like groundnuts.

The leaves and twigs are sometimes used as feed for livestock. Edible oil extracted from the seeds is useful for illumination, cosmetics, and lubrication. The bark yields a coarse fiber suitable for making mats, paper and cords or ropes. The stem produces a gum used in calico printing. The stems are also used as a raw material for the production of cellophane pulps for the cellophane and textile industries.

The root bark is used as a condiment or garnish.

Almost all parts of the tree, the leaves and root bark in particular have medicinal applications. The leaves when prepared and applied to the skin are useful in reducing glandular swellings, and a decoction of the roots is used for cleaning sores and ulcers. The bark is useful for snake bites by using it to irritate then skin to prevent the poison from spreading.  The juice of the root with milk is also useful as a decoction to hiccups, asthma, gout, lumbago and rheumatism.

The whole tree is often used as fence material, shade tree in home gardens and support for pepper vines.


Reference: Attachment of Sen. Loren Legarda’s letter to the Barangay Captains dated May 12, 2008. Sen. Legarda is the founder of Luntiang Pilipinas and the Author of the Malunggay Development Act.

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