I do believe that if there’s a food that can be pickled, Indians will do it. It’s a great way to preserve something you have plenty of, or before it goes out of season. Just think of the sheer variety of common and more unusual pickles that are made across India. I came across Moringa or Drumstick Pickle some time back. Moringa or Drumstick fruit being pickled was new to me as I’ve not seen this being done back home.
I do believe that Moringa or Drumstick Pickle is perhaps native to Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. There Moringa or Drumstick fruit is known as Munnakaya. Everywhere outside India, dried and powdered Moringa is being packed and promoted as a superfood. However, tender Moringa fruit (or seed pods) are equally nutritious and perhaps tastier. They, along with the leaves and flowers, can be cooked in many different ways.
I’m a bit hard pressed to describe the taste of Moringa fruit. Wikipedia describes it as reminiscent of asparagus, with a hint of green beans, though sweeter. I only know that I like the taste of them. You can find Moringa or drumsticks in South India almost throughout the year except in the monsoons, perhaps. The tree is not very strong and tends to break in the monsoon winds. Most of us who have trees tend to trim them before the rainy season sets in.
So we don’t ever have a need to preserve the fruit. However, this pickle is a good way to use up excess of it. Always use tender fruit. Mature fruit has very hard seeds which are bitter and also unpleasant to eat. Moringa or Drumsticks don’t need much prep work. You need to only trim the ends and cut each one into longish pieces. I cut them into 2-inch pieces for this pickle. Some people like to remove a part of the outer skin but it is not necessary.
The important thing in this pickle, like most others, is to get the balance of flavours right. The recipe is really a set of guidelines in terms of spices. The proportion of salt, spice, tang and sweetness must be decided by your personal taste. I tend to keep this pickle a bit low on the spice (chilli powder) with a hint of tang and sweet. This pickle is a favourite of my daughter’s, and she is not a pickle lover by any stretch.
Moringa or Drumstick Pickle
- 1/3 cup sesame oil
- 7 to 8 moringa drumsticks
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/3 cup red chilli powder or to taste
- 1/8 cup powdered jaggery
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder
- 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
- 2 to 3 sprigs curry leaves
- Wash the Moringa or drum sticks and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. They should be completely dry as presence of water can cause the pickle to spoil, in the long run. Trim the ends and cut each one into 2-inch long pieces.
- Heat the oil in a deep pan or wok. Fry the drumstick piece till they’re cooked and remove to a bowl. Add the cumin, turmeric, red chilli and fenugreek powders, the tamarind paste and jaggery to fried drumstick pieces in the bowl. Toss till the pieces are well coated with the spices.
- Heat the remaining oil in the wok and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Turn the heat off. Add the spice coated drumstick pieces and mix well.
- Let it cool a bit. Then transfer the pickle to a sterile glass jar and refrigerate till use.