Moringa oleifera is a flowering plant that’s indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Historically prized for it’s nutritional, medicinal and prophylactic properties, it’s cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. Almost every part of the moringa plant is edible and can be consumed alone or used in some of your favorite recipes.

Preparing the Leaves

You can cook and use moringa leaves in any way that you’d cook and use kale, collard greens or spinach. For basic preparation, season the leaves to taste and steam them for just a few minutes, or saute them in a little olive oil and spices. You can eat them as prepared, or add them to other dishes such as chili, soups, omelets, pizzas, quiches or hot sandwiches.

Preparing the Pods

Moringa pods are at their most tender and tasty when they are young and small, approximately 5 to 8 inches long. Older pods are safe to eat, but are tougher and require longer cooking times. Prepare them whole, like green beans. A simple, healthy way to prepare the pods is to saute them with onions, tomatoes, garlic and a little olive oil. You can also use them in other savory dishes such as casseroles, vegetable stir-fries or soups.

Preparing the Seeds

Moringa seeds can be eaten from the time they are formed until their shells harden and turn yellow. Cook and use them in any way you might use English or black-eyed peas. Carefully open the pods, remove the seeds by gently scraping them out with a small spoon and rinse them well in a colander under cool water. Cook a basic seed dish by sauteing them with onions, garlic and olive oil. You can also use them in cold and hot dishes such as salads, casseroles and stews. Dried seeds can be added to breads, muffins and pancakes.

Eating the Buds and Flowers

Moringa buds and flowers are edible, but they must be cooked first. They’ve been said to have a laxative effect and should be eaten in small amounts. Further, they should never be consumed during pregnancy as research suggests they can act as an abortifacient. Boil moringa buds and flowers in water for at least five minutes before consuming. They can be used to make tea or added to many dishes such as pasta, enchiladas, souffles or casseroles.

Side Effects and Warnings

Despite the praise heaped upon moringa oleifera for its nutritional and healing properties, research is still ongoing in respect to possible dangerous side effects. Some studies have shown moringa to be genotoxic at high levels. The plant has also been linked to hypertension, bradycardia, mutagenic activity, the reduction of blood glucose levels, fertility reduction, uterine contractions and an increased risk of renal and hepatic damage. Research also warns that those who consume moringa must be aware that it could interact negatively with prescription medications.