Moringa Oleifera

What Is It?

Moringa Tree Costa Rica

Moringa Tree prime for pickin’

Moringa oleifera is a highly valued plant, distributed in many countries of the tropics and subtropics. It has an impressive range of medicinal uses with high nutritional value.

Moringa is one of the most useful plants I’ve come across, which Is why I featured it first. It’s called a supermarket on a tree and yields at least three different edibles: pods, leaves, and seeds. The roots are used in various medicinal and ayurvedic traditions. The different parts of this plant contain a profile of important minerals, and are a good source of protein, vitamins, β-carotene, phytochemicals and the full chain of essential amino acids. Beyond edibles, it provides useful products such as lubricating oil, lamp oil, wood, paper, liquid fuel, skin treatments, and a means to help purify water to name  a few.  It’s native to the sub-Himalayan tracts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

It’s also known as the horseradish tree, drumstick tree, benzolive tree, kelor, marango, mlonge, moonga, mulangay, nébéday, saijhan, sajna or Ben oil tree and has become naturalized in many parts of the tropics including Central/South America.

Why Grow it?

From a survival/prepper perspective this plant is a significant source of vitamins and protein.  In the same breath, its perennial, drought resistant and can flourish in horrible soil.  It follows our mantra well, “low input, high output”. Minimal work will bring pounds upon pounds of harvest throughout the year.  It can also be dried and powdered for long term storage or used for tea.  Moringa powder can be used to nutritionally bolster anything you’re eating.

Jodi making moringa power from fresh leaves in Costa Rica

A spoonful of powder is like a plate full of salad.

If you’re interested in becoming less dependent on the supermarket, I highly suggest adding this to your garden.   We have over 50 moringa oleifera trees growing on the property now.  It’s a rapidly growing tree and I strongly suggest keeping it cut short to a level where leaf collection is possible.  It’s common for these to grow 10-15 feet per year.  Even if it gets too tall, you can always cut this tough tree short again and it will come back.

Nutritional Value of Moringa Oleifera

The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, being a significant source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese, and protein, among other essential nutrients. When compared with common foods particularly high in certain nutrients per 100 g fresh weight, cooked moringa leaves are considerable sources of these same nutrients. Some of the calcium in moringa leaves is bound as crystals of calcium oxalate though at levels 1/25th to 1/45th of that found in spinach, which is a negligible amount.  In addition, Moringa contains the full chain of amino acids(the individual building blocks of protein). This a rare for vegetable sources.  Below is a nutritional breakdown from the USDA.

Moringa oleifera leaf, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 64 kcal (270 kJ)
Carbohydrates  8.28 g
Dietary fiber 2.0 g
Fat 1.40 g
Protein 9.40 g

Vitamins
Vitamin A                        (47%)  378 μg
Thiamine (B1)                 (22%) 0.257 mg
Riboflavin (B2)               (55%) 0.660 mg
Niacin (B3)                      (15%) 2.220 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)    (3%) 0.125 mg
Vitamin B6                       (92%) 1.200 mg
Folate (B9)                       (10%) 40 μg
Vitamin C                         (62%) 51.7 mg

Minerals 
Calcium              (19%) 185 mg
Iron                     (31%) 4.00 mg
Magnesium        (41%)  147 mg
Manganese        (17%) 0.36 mg
Phosphorus       (16%)  112 mg
Potassium          (7%) 337 mg
Sodium               (1%) 9 mg
Zinc                     (6%) 0.6 mg

 

What Does It Need To Grow?

It loves sun and heat.  Sandy soil is the best but it tolerates just about any poor soil.  It can handle some cold but may go dormant after frost and return in the spring.  Propagation is by seed or cuttings. I’ve found that the cuttings need to be over a centimeter thick and have a woody outside before they make good candidates for planting.  Growing from cuttings seems to be much easier and quicker than starting from seed.  While it is drought resistant, when the saplings are small it may not produce much growth in extremely dry conditions.  Some watering is recommended.  When they’re larger, they’ll do fine regardless of neglect.

Studies and Links

Moringa oleifera: A Food Plant with
Multiple Medicinal Uses

Moringa oleifera: A Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties.

Lost Crops of Africa: Volume 2, Chapter 14

Here’s a link to a Plethora of studies from “Moringa News”

Trees For Life Organization

EchoNet Moringa

Haiti Hopes Moringa Can Combat Malnutrition

The Marango Tree in Costa Rica, Miracle Food or MLM Scam?

 Edible Plant Project: Moringa

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