Moringa Oleifera has been widely cultivated for thousands of years due to its rapid growth and many health benefits. The high content of essential vitamins like calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, iron and magnesium, make the tiny leaves enormously nutritious. Moringa’s rapid growth means that it is more bioavailable than most synthetic supplements and it grows predominantly in areas where malnutrition is most common. It’s like a natural spring of nutrients in your own back garden. It thrives in subtropical areas and loves sandy soil. Moringa is also drought resistant but will rot if waterlogged for too long.
Moringa gets its different names from its roots, seeds and extracts;
- Horseradish Tree – Named after the roots which bear a resemblance in flavour to horseradish.
- Ben-oil Tree – This name derives from the high content of behenic acid which is extracted from the seeds in the form of an oil.
- Drumstick Tree – Describing the triangular seed pods that grow long and slender.
Moringa Oleifera is a fast growing deciduous tree that reaches up to 12m tall and the trunk can grow as big as 30cm in diameter. The open crown usually boasts an umbrella-shaped canopy unless the tree has been constantly coppiced to stimulate new growth and make collecting the leaves easier. The wood is soft and most commonly used as firewood. Just about every part of the Moringa tree has a use but the leaves are most sought after as a vegetable or ground down into a powder for their medicinal properties. The appearance of the bark is between a white and greyish colour with a corky texture. After the tree has produced its fragrant white flowers, long bumpy seed pods will emerge from the ends of the branches looking almost like a wind chime. These pods can be eaten in a soup and if left to dry out they will produce around 9-10 seeds per pod. Moringa is usually grown in home gardens from India through South East Asia where it is commonly sold in markets as a vegetable. The fast growth of the young trees and heavy production of seeds mean that it is usually grown from seed and leaves are taken from the tree as needed. The tree itself can be cut back almost to the ground and it will quickly grow new branches.
The main uses of the Moringa Tree come in the form of medicinal powders and oils, vegetables made from the seed pods and leaves, and soaps made from the roots. But it has so much more to offer as a natural material in organic or natural farming. Moringa can be used to amend depleted soil and makes a great additive for composting. The small leaves and soft-wooded stems decompose rapidly and produce an abundance of nutrients that are said to promote general plant health and stimulate new growth. The leaves and stems can also be used in a simple ‘chop and drop’ method to make a Moringa mulch or soaked in water for 1-2 weeks to make a compost tea. Harvested leaves can be used as an alternative organic animal feed and later as a manure for fertilizing an organic garden.
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