In the past 10 years or so, haven’t you noticed that the produce just doesn’t taste like it used to? When was the last time you bit into an apple or a pear, and the juice ran down your chin, and the taste tantalized your taste buds? It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?
How about the prices? Scary, aren’t they? We think so, too. A couple of years ago, we decided to do something about it, so we started researching edible landscaping. Paying particular attention to nutrition, we decided to grow only the most nutritive, fast-growing plants, to help our pocketbook AND our health. Our interest was galvanized by Moringa. It is fast-growing, lovely to see, and its produce tastes wonderful!
Moringa trees have a unique place in the plant kingdom. Their bright, green leaves, loaded with protein, contain 18 amino acids, including all of the ones that are considered to be essential. According to scientific research, Moringa leaves contain lots of usable calcium, unusual for a leafy green, and lots of magnesium, a mineral which is considered as vital to the health of your heart. Nutritional facts from Trees for Life Organization, cite some of the nutritional benefits of Moringa. When eaten raw, the leaves contain roughly 220 mg of Vitamin C in a 100 gram serving, or about 3.5 ounces. Compare that to oranges, which contain about 30 mg of Vitamin C in the same size serving, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that raw Moringa leaves can be a powerful addition to your daily fare. Moringa Farms has an excellent Moringa nutrient chart on their site, on the pods, the fresh leaves and the leaf powder. It was compiled in 1998 by Campden and Chorleywood Food Research, an affiliate of the National Council of Churches,
Once your tree has lots of flower buds and blossoms on it, you will see some young pods begin to grow. When they are mature, they can be from 1 foot long, to almost 4 feet long, depending on the tree. These are called “drumsticks”, hence an alternate name for the Moringa tree, is “The Drumstick Tree”. When the pods are very young, about the size of green beans, they provide yet another edible, from Moringa. Their taste is very delicate, and at that stage, they are good eating – raw, or very slightly cooked.
Remember, we mentioned surviving the economy, eating a tree? Well, Moringa trees can be eaten even as seedlings – trunk and all. You can plant them as an annual, in the northern climates, and chop the entire young tree off, above the ground, and eat them. If you keep an adequate supply of Moringa seeds on hand, you can plant them just about anywhere, when the weather is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and start to eat them when they are only 6 inches tall. Of course, if you let them grow taller, you can harvest more leaves from them, and eventually the flower buds and blossoms. Keep them at a height just a bit taller than you are, so you can easily reach their produce. The seeds are not expensive, and if you have a long enough warm growing season, you can harvest your own seeds, from pods on your tree.
Do you like nuts? How about popcorn? Then, you will enjoy eating the seeds, from your Moringa trees. You can toss them in a little oil – olive oil or coconut oil give them the best taste – and slow roast them in the oven until they just begin to change color. Then, sprinkle them with salt or garlic salt, and enjoy! Some people like to “pop” them, like popcorn, in a little bit of oil, and then season them to taste. However you like them best, Moringa seeds make a viable, healthy alternate to popcorn.
The only part of a Moringa tree that is not recommended eating, is the root. In many cultures, Moringa roots are eaten in place of horseradish. Another one of the tree’s common names is”The Horseradish Tree”. Research undertaken by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation has shown that it is NOT desirable to eat it, as the root, and its bark, contain a powerful neurotoxin, spirochin, which can be fatal if ingested in large quantities. Despite our diligent efforts to ascertain what quantity is considered to be toxic, the facts remain elusive. Therefore, our advice is – do not eat the roots. Horseradish is usually used as a condiment, anyway; not as a “survival food”, is safe to eat, and can be readily obtained at a grocery store.
So, you can eat the tasty Moringa leaves, the flower buds, the flower blossoms, the young Moringa seed pods, and the seeds, as we do. That is a lot of harvest, from one easy-to-grow tree. In the southern US, and in tropical climates, Moringa can be grown year-round. In northern climates, they can be grown as an annual, or planted in a large pot, and brought indoors for the winter. Quite a versatile plant, they can be grown as a flowering shrub, a hedge, or a full-sized tree, and pack an almost unbeatable nutritional harvest!
Moringa Farms, http://www.moringafarms.com
Trees for Life International, http://www.treesforlife.org
Church World Service, The Miracle Tree edited by Lowell J. Fuglie, Senegal, 2001.
Techical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, http://www.cta.int