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Moringa Oleifera, The Miracle tree?

Moringa is often known as the “miracle tree,” but do you know why that is? Mainly, it is because every part of the Moringa tree is beneficial for humans and animals. The leaves, roots, bark, seeds, and seed cake can be used for a variety of things, including food, medicine, and water purification. The name “Drumstick Plant” or “Drumstick Vegetable” comes from the shape of its seed pods, which resemble drumsticks. They start out green and turn brown as they mature, eventually reaching a length of 12 inches (30 cm)! 

The Miracle Tree is a perennial tree that grows to a height of 6-10 meters. With delicate foliage, drooping limbs, and gorgeous pale yellow blooms, it’s well-suited to being a shade tree in your backyard. If you need a shorter tree or are cultivating an edible hedge, you can reduce it to 2-4 meters. 

Moringa is nicknamed the “drumstick vegetable” for it’s long pods. / Source

Moringa is a deciduous tree with a swelling subterranean rootstock that has a horseradish-like flavor. It produces lengthy seed pods. Each pod bears a large number of wing-edged seeds (about 20). The pods start out green and turn brown as they grow. They crack open and spill the seeds once they are fully ripe. Moringa trunks can grow to be 10-45cm broad (perhaps even wider) and have a magnificent umbrella-shaped crown, making it ideal for shade. Their blossoms are white to cream in color, about 2.5cm broad, and fragrant. It can bloom at any time of year.

Pollination is not required for Moringa oleifera. It has bisexual flowers, and animals such as bees and birds aid in pollination. A single tree can produce up to 400 fruits per year, and after your Moringa has settled down and matured, this number could rise to 1000!

It’s almost too perfect  

I’m sure you already know about the Kale boom a few years ago. Everyone was rushing to their supermarket to get their hands on this superfood. Some experts say that Moringa will be a buzz-worthy superfood soon (if it isn’t already). 

Moringa oleifera has seven times the vitamin C of an orange, four times the calcium of milk, three times the potassium of a banana, and three times the iron of spinach when measured gram for gram. The leaves are also a complete protein since they contain all nine essential amino acids. 

Moringa oleifera’s anti-inflammatory properties are achieved through inhibiting inflammatory proteins and enzymes in the body. As it is more quickly absorbed by the body, moringa oleifera is a more effective anti-inflammatory than turmeric. 

According to the available literature, it is regarded as an “excellent tree” for agroforestry. Moringa oleifera is particularly effective for crops when grown in a multistoried cropping design under the shade of this tree. Because the tree is less vulnerable to price changes, it can outperform monocropping. Agroforestry with Moringa oliferia also contributes significantly to soil and water conservation. 

Every part of the Moringa tree is beneficial to humans. / Source.

How to grow Moringa 

Subtropical and tropical regions are ideal for Moringa. If you live in a cooler environment, you can grow it in a container and move it indoors or place it in a warmer location during the winter. There is also some evidence that Moringa can grow in cooler climates when it is integrated into an agroforestry system. 

The Miracle tree thrives in temperatures ranging from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius. It can withstand higher temperatures as long as it is shielded from the hottest noon heat. It can withstand a little frost once it has established itself, especially if it is protected by other plants. 

Moringa trees growing / Source.

There are over 13 species of Moringa plants, all of which can be used for food or medicinal purposes. However, outside of Moringaceae oleifera most other species are not widely cultivated outside of their native habitat. Other popular moringa varieties include: 

  • Moringaceae arborea
  • Moringaceae borziana
  • Moringaceae longituba

From the roots to the leaves and flowers, to the enormous pods and seeds that develop from the branches, almost every part of the moringa plant is edible. The leaves are commonly cooked as a vegetable or boiled for tea, while the powdered pods are used in curries and the oil collected from the seeds is used in perfumes and soaps.

When the pods are approximately 1-2cm in diameter and readily pop off the branches, they are ready to harvest. Moringa leaves can be gathered at any time, however older leaves are preferable than younger leaves for manufacturing moringa powder. 

Termites can still be a problem with established moringa trees, despite the fact that moringa plants are resistant to a variety of pests and illnesses. Mulching around the base of the tree with castor oil plant leaves, mahogany chips, tephrosia leaves, or Persian lilac leaves can help if termites are a problem.

Here is a fantastic video by Jed Fahey on opportunities for Moringa agroforestry and medicinal plant development: 

What do we do with it once we grow it? 

So now we know how to grow it, but what do we do once it’s all ready to be harvested? 

“As part of the effort to combat global food shortages in the face of climate change, then the need for processing and storage of our food crops becomes imperative. The concern about local food wastage has been raised, creating fear that the level of human hunger may be raised if this is not tackled.”

Dr. O. A. Agba Ag. Head of Department, Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Cross River University of Technology, Obubra Campus, Nigeria

reNature proposes two Moringa processing options for our farmers. The first option is to harvest and sell the fresh product. The infographic above explains the different steps the farmer would go through in terms of quality control and distribution. 

The second option for processing is to dry and preserve the moringa before distribution. This includes drying and grinding the leaves to make easily transportable tablets. Not only does preservation prolong the life of the product, it also increases the value of the product, providing the farmer with a higher return. 

reNature projects with Moringa 

reNature works with projects all over the world, each project focusing on a specific key crop. The focus on key crops ensures an economic advantage for the farmer. The projects we work on that focus on Moringa as their key crop include Ambakofi, Wami River, Laikipia, and Kheete

A baby moringa plant from a reNature project in Kenya; Laikipia / Source: Laikipia Permaculture Centre

Wami River has already planted 4,500 Moringa trees! Their goal is to regenerate the ranch through productive vanilla and moringa agroforestry systems whilst creating economic opportunities for smallholder farmers. Laikipia is integrating Moringa into their system for the social and health benefits that it brings. Meanwhile, in India, the Kheete project is using Moringa mainly for the ecological impact it will have on the soil. 

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