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Moringa - One of Nature's Most Useful Plants Newsletter



Common name:  Moringa, also known as the horseradish tree and drumstick tree

Botanical name:  Moringa oleifera

Habit: A fast growing tree that can reach 15 feet in one year up to 50 feet. There are 13 known species from tropical and subtropical climates that range in size from tiny herbs to massive trees. 

Culture:  Moringa grows best in the hot, semi-arid tropics in a sunny location. It is relatively drought- tolerant and grows with rain falls of 10-60 inches per year. It grows best in altitudes below 2000 feet. Native to parts of Africa and Asia. Will tolerate light frosts, may shed the leaves at cooler temperatures but will quickly send out new growth when temperatures reach 70 degrees. Prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soil, is tolerant of clay soil but not when water logged. It thrives in a wide range of soil ph from 5-9.

Pruning will increase leaf production, promote further branching, and help it maintain a particular height; otherwise it can grow 50 feet tall! Leaf harvest can begin once the tree is established. Cut each branch back a foot after it has grown 2 feet.

Moringa is best grown from seed since cuttings tend to produce smaller roots systems. Seeds should be planted within two years of harvest. Plant one inch deep in well-draining soil for germination in about one-two weeks. Moringa prefers the warm weather so propagation is best after April and before November.

Problems:  Moringa is resistant to most pests. Livestock and wild animals will eat seedlings so take care protect seedlings until the trees are well established.

Uses:  Virtually every part of the tree is edible. The pods are similar to string beans and have a slight asparagus flavor. The leaves are like spinach, the seeds like peanuts and roots taste similar to horseradish. All plant parts are packed with nutrients. Seeds are known to purify water. Seeds harvested for water treatment should be during the dry season only; seeds harvested during wet seasons often fail to work.

Use as a fertilizer:  Moringa leaves can be composted as green manure and are an excellent source of nutrient for soil building. A leaf extract is known to contain a plant growth hormone. Grind fresh moringa shoots with water, filter solids out and use as a foliar spray to encourage growth of young seedlings.

Moringa Oil:  Mature seeds are about 40% oil that is excellent for cooking, perfumes, soap making and lubrication. It is slow to become rancid. Extract the oil from fresh seeds by roasting, mashing and placing in boiling water for five minutes. After straining and sitting over night, the oil will float to the surface.

Other Uses:  Can be planted as a living fence or trellis and used for firewood or paper pulp. It can used to feed livestock. To make Moringa Powder, air dry the leaves away from sunlight and in a low humidity environment. Avoid applying heat that will degrade nutrient potency. When completely dry, grind leaves and thin stems in a coffee bean or other grinder. Store in a paper bag or container with oxygen/moisture absorbers or vacuum seal and freeze for up to 12 months.

Medicine and Nutrition:  Moringa has antibiotic and fungicidal properties. Herbal applications are used for skin infections. Roots are edible when young, trees are about 24 inches tall. Grind the roots, mix with vinegar and salt and use in place of horseradish. For this use it can be grown in rows like other vegetables. The flowers can be eaten or used to make tea. Seed pods, known as drumsticks, can be used in foods like peas and have a taste similar to asparagus. Add the leaves in any spinach recipe or use in a sauce as a potherb. Moringa is also delicious health giving in fresh juices and smoothies. 

To discuss this newsletter or any other topic, tune in each Sunday 8am - 11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The call-in phone number is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or click here to find a station in your area.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on organics.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett

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