Neem - food

Neem is not widely known and used as a food. Sometimes neem leaves are eaten. They have a very bitter taste which can be removed by cooking.

Leaves and sap

A photograph of neem leaves housed in Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
Image: Mainly used as a medicine, neem leaves are occasionally eaten as a food.

Tender neem leaves are believed to have been eaten in ancient South Asia. They were cooked like spinach. It is said Mahatma Gandhi ate neem leaf chutney despite it having an incredibly bitter taste. Boiling the leaves can remove their bitterness and they can also be fried in butter or oil to make them more pleasant. Sap from the stems of the trees can be made into alcoholic toddy. In India, a bitter tasting honey is produced from bees using neem flowers as a nectar source.

In India neem leaves are sometimes fed to livestock.