By Jeffrey O. Valisno, Sub-Editor

Super food

Posted on November 16, 2012

Books • The Malunggay Book: Health & Easy-to-do Recipes • Make Good Money with Malunggay By Day Salonga and Mon Urbano Edited by Nancy Reyes-Lumen Anvil Publishing, Inc.

TOUTED as the "miracle vegetable," the malunggay (moringa oleifera) is valued for its health benefits. Being rich in calcium, copper, iron, potassium, protein, vitamins E and C, niacin, biotin, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, among others, malunggay can be used to treat headaches, shallow cuts, bacterial and fungal skin complaints, anti-inflammatory gastric ulcers, diarrhea and malnutrition. There are also studies that show that malunggay leaves are anti-diabetic and anti-tumor growth.

Before these health benefits were discovered though, malunggay was already part of the Filipino diet.

Food journalist, culinary researcher and Filipino food promoter Nancy Reyes-Lumen said malunggay is commonly cooked and eaten like spinach, or used to make soups and salads.

"Filipinos used malunggay in making halaan (clam) soup or a vegetable dish called ginataang malunggay (malunggay leaves cooked in coconut milk)," said Ms. Reyes-Lumen during the launch of The Malunggay Book: Healthy & Easy-to-do Recipes, and its companion guide, Make Good Money with Malunggay both written by chef-consultants Day Salonga and Mon Urbano.

Edited by Ms. Reyes-Lumen, the two books were produced with the World Outreach Foundation Kansas City, which has piloted programs that provide seedlings, as well as fresh and powdered malunggay leaves, to malnourished schoolchildren in small communities in Pangasinan and Laguna.

In line with this advocacy, the newly published books are meant to encourage the use of malunggay to promote good nutrition as well as small enterprise, Ms. Reyes-Lumen explained.

The Malunggay Book offers 65 simple recipes highlighting the nutritional value of malunggay, which is easily accessible to most Filipino households.

Make Good Money with Malunggay, meanwhile, presents novel ways by which to earn from malunggay, given that it can be cultivated in one’s backyard and processed at a minimal expense.

The Malunggay Book took a year to complete, with Messrs. Salonga and Urbano working on the recipes in their test kitchen and at home.

"It was challenging to develop the recipes because malunggay doesn’t have a strong flavor. Its value is more of the nutritional content... We utilized all the parts of the malunggay tree: the leaves, pods, roots," Mr. Salonga told reporters.

The chefs, who are founders of restaurant solutions provider MonDay Chefs, also had to take into consideration the distribution of the book in the United States, where fresh malunggay may not be readily available.

"We needed to make sure that all the recipes could be made with a dried substitute. So recipe development was doubled because the proportions of fresh and dried malunggay would be different," Mr. Salonga explained, noting that the equivalent proportions, in case of substitution, are itemized for each recipe.

"We made certain that all the ingredients are commonly available, because our target would be to reach as many Filipinos as possible, across all sectors," Mr. Urbano added.

Mr. Urbano indicated that the recipes were made affordable in consideration of the D and E markets. At the same time, the recipes were also "elevated" to cater to more sophisticated palates, and therefore entice the A, B and C segment.

This explains why the cookbook offers malunggay cookies, burgers and even marmalade.

"In The Malunggay Book, we really have recipes where you wouldn’t imagine malunggay could be used. But it’s very simple, easy to follow," Mr. Salonga said.

The chefs also felt that apart from being convenient to use in the kitchen, malunggay could sustain a viable home business, hence the accompanying book, Make Good Money with Malunggay.

"In terms of the home business, we’ve listed several how-to’s: how to make a malunggay capsule, how to make powdered malunggay, and how to make malunggay tea... A cottage industry can be generated from all these malunggay-based products," Mr. Salonga said.

He said that it was Ms. Reyes-Lumen who introduced them to Anvil Publishing. "Anvil liked the idea because there hasn’t been a malunggay cookbook published in the country; this is the first," Mr. Salonga said.

Ms. Reyes-Lumen indicated that the recipes in the cookbook would address the demand for healthy, nourishing food that is also delicious.

"Why swallow dozens of vitamin pills to be healthy and strong, when you can eat it with pasta or drink it as a smoothie? More than ever, modern culinary lifestyles are in dire need of food which will nourish and comfort both body and soul, in answer to the high cost of living and stress that comes with it. ‘Green’ healthy foods are in demand, and malunggay answers to all these needs," she said.

The two books are now available at ₱130 each at all branches of National Book Store and Powerbooks. Part of the proceeds will fund the World Outreach Foundation Moringa Farming and Feeding Programs in the Philippines. For more information, visit the MonDay Chefs’ official Web site, www.mondaychefs.com.