Moringa at Puvidham notes

In January 2011 I visited Adam at Puvidham in Tamil Nadu in southern India. Adam was still doing his undergraduate then, and was in his co-op year, working at Puvidham and researching an ethnobotany project. We took advantage of the abundant plants that were in flower to do some simple plant morphology with the children, and so were looking at the plants that were all around us. One of them was a small tree growing with some papayas next to the threshing floor. It had intriguing flowers resembling those found in the bean family (Fabaceae), and we tried to key it out, using Matthew's An Excursion Flora of Central Tamil Nadu, India. Slog, slog, through the key. Then one of the really tiny children said something like, oh, that's drumstick. Didn't mean a whole lot to either of us then, not even Adam who had been living there for several months by then. But yes, Wikipedia told us that drumstick is Moringa oleifera, all by itself in its own family, the Moringaceae.

Fast forward now to the present.
For some time now Meher has been buying drumsticks from Kohinoor Foods on Gerrard Street East, in Toronto. In the past month or so she noticed that the drumsticks at Kohinoor seemed particularly fresh, and bought a bunch in order to make sambar with them. One of the places on Gerrard Street where we go for dosa used to make sambar, each little pot of which would have at least a couple of pieces of drumstick in it. Alas, no more, so Meher bought some drumsticks with the idea of making her own sambar, which she did.

Gerrard Street East, Toronto

Image courtesy of XeresNelro, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:29_Gerrard_Street,_Toronto.jpg.

We bought drumsticks

(Above) Dosa, a sort of pancake made from a fermented batter of urad dal or black gram (Vigna mungo) and rice flour, shown with a bowl of sambar and a bowl of what's probably coconut chutney.

Image courtesy of Alpha from Melbourne, Australia - Plain Dosai - Chennai Banana Leaf, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50282017.

She also mentioned in passing that drumsticks and goat made a nice curry. Well, we can get goat, either affordable and full of sharp bone pieces because the butchers either hack up the fresh carcase or else randomly saw up a frozen one, or we can buy yuppy, and get fresh, Ontario goat lovingly raised by local capricornists for a yuppy-sized price. Or, we saw, we could buy a kilo of frozen, boneless lamb chunks from New Zealand. Which we did. Our next shopping trip to Gerrard Street we got more drumsticks, with the assurance that *I* would do the cooking, seeing as how Meher's online work had just exploded, and she would have no time for such things. Instead she pointed me at her shrimp curry and in effect said, adapt that, use tomatoes instead of coconut, and put the drumstick in for the last 15' of cooking, once the meat is tender. Easy-peasy, and that's what I did.

Drumstick preparation

Lamb Drumstick Curry
(see http://msrecipes.ca/Spices.html)

  • 1 kg frozen New Zealand boneless lamb chunks.

  • drumsticks, cut up and peeled
  • ginger and garlic "paste," made from about a fist-sized pile of equal volumes of peeled garlic cloves and peeled ginger rhizome.

  • 2 onions

  • fresh cilantro

  • 4 plum tomatoes or the approximate equivalent in round ones. Make that 5, if you don't have, as I did, some left-over juice from a can of tomatoes.

  • chilli flakes and/or good chilli powder

  • turmeric

  • ground coriander seed

  • salt

  • oil (Canola)

Thaw the meat, then rinse it well in cold water and let it drain. Because I had a kilo of meat to work with, I browned the drained meat in one pan using just a little oil. In another, I sauteed the diced onions slowly, so they wouldn't burn while the meat browned. When the meat was browned add the ginger-garlic paste, stirring the meat well so nothing gets burned, then add the spiced meat to the frying onions. Once combined with the meat, increase the heat under the onions and add the salt (not more than a teaspoon), 2-3 tbsp. turmeric, and the chilli, always stirring well so that everything is well mixed and not sticking to the pan.

Now add the chopped tomato and cilantro, and water (and/or tomato juice) so that the meat is just covered with liquid. Simmer the meat until tender. Add more water if needed to keep the meat covered and to make a thin gravy. While the meat is cooking, prepare the drumsticks by cutting them into pieces 7-8 cm long (approximately 3"). The drumsticks are roughly triangular in cross-section, so roughly peel a strip of the outermost rind from each side, and from each end. When the meat is tender, add the drumsticks and continue cooking for 15', then remove from the heat. You're done.

Because I copied the curry recipe from Meher's shrimp recipe and didn't include any ground coriander, Meher added a couple of tbsp. ground coriander "seeds" (they're really the fruits of the cilantro plant). This spice provides flavor, and also acts to thicken the gravy a bit. Meher is, of course, indignant and says she told me and she told me to follow the chicken curry recipe, but I guess I just didn't listen.

frying the lamb chunks
frying the onions
The dish

Drumstick seeds

Those are the drumstick seeds.

Link to Jamaican Bryophyte drawings