Imagine a plant that produces almost perfect food. Gram for gram, Moringa leaves contain seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times more calcium and two times more protein than milk, four times more vitamin A than carrots, three times the potassium of bananas, three times more iron than spinach and twice the protein of yogurt.
Moringa also contains all eight of the essential amino acids and ten of the non-essential ones required for the human body, plus several antibiotic properties.
There are thirteen identified species of Moringa. The most popular is Moringa oleifera, a fast growing tree that can reach thirty feet in height and grows best in a tropical or sub-tropical environment, and Moringa stenopetala, which is indigenous to the mountains of Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. The Konso people of southern Ethiopia grow M stenopetala and use it for survival during the dry season when traditional food sources are unavailable.
The tree is known by many names such as: drumstick tree because of the shape of the seed pods, asparagus tree because of similar taste and horseradish tree because of the taste of the roots, as well as other names used by indigenous groups throughout the world.
M oleifera grows best at altitudes below 2,000 feet but can tolerate elevations as high as 4,000 feet, while M stenopetala has been observed as high as 6,500 feet but prefers lower altitudes. We are experimenting with plants at Yetebon Village in Ethiopia at about 7,500 feet elevation in hopes the plant will grow well enough to be useful to the villagers. It will probably not produce flowers and seeds at that elevation but Moringa is easily propagated from cuttings.
The easiest way to eat Moringa is to harvest the leaves from your own tree. Use them on salads or sauté them like fresh greens. The flowers and buds can be eaten also, but must be cooked, while immature pods can be eaten raw. Even the seeds can be cooked like snap beans or peas or, when mature, roast or fry them.
The dried leaves can be ground into a fine powder and used to make a hot beverage or mixed with spices for flavoring, but dry them in the shade. Direct sun will degrade the vitamins, especially vitamin A.
For the beverage add 1/4 teaspoonful of the powder to eight oz. hot water and stir. Drink the powder residue. It is part of the nutritional value of the drink. This formula successfully treats emaciated mothers who are nursing starving babies in famine stricken areas. The mothers become healthy and the babies survive and lose their distended bellies.
The roots from young trees can be made into a condiment similar to horseradish but the root bark contains several alkaloids. It is better to not risk becoming sick and just buy horseradish at the market.
Moringa seeds can be ground into a fine oil for use in cooking, cosmetics and lubrication and has a long lasting shelf life.
In addition to all these uses Moringa seeds can be crushed into a powder and used to clarify turbid water to between 90% to 99%. Harvest the seeds in the dry season for this purpose. It is often suggested this may have been the tree the Israelites used to purify the bitter water in the desert.
Moringa can also be used as a cattle fodder supplement. When planted closely in rows the top portion is harvested and the remainder is allowed to grow and produce again in about thirty five days..
A recent Moringa discovery is to squeeze the liquid from the green matter, dilute the juice with water and spray on food crops. This spray accelerates plant growth. The plants are more healthy and yields are increased by 20% to 30%.
Many people in Southern Florida grow M oleifera in their yards. Once the plant is established from seed or transplant it will grow about one foot per month! Let it attain a height of six or seven feet, then “top” it to four or five feet which will allow the tree to bush out for easy access to the leaves.
In most parts of the U. S. Moringa can be grown as a perennial or planted in large pots to be brought inside for the winter.
Are there more uses yet to be discovered? Time will tell. Research is on-going.
Moringa seeds are available from several on line sources as is more detailed information on this the “Miracle” tree.
Charles E. “Charlie” Brown founder, “Ethiopian Child”
Sources: Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization Technical notes (listed under Agriculture): http://www.echonet.org
I Love Moringa: http://www.ilovemoringa.com
Trees for Life: http://www.treesforlife.org/moringa
Genera Nutrition: http://www.moringaoil.com
More resources: http://moringafact.com/resources