Moringa Garden Circle Official Tree
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ECHO is planting the Moringa tree in developing countries, as well as training the people to use every facet of the tree.
Virtually every part of it is edible!
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Native to India and commonly known as the Horse Radish Tree because of its pungent edible root, Moringa Oleifera is a soft-wooded tree that grows to about 25 feet tall, with corky bark and feathery leaves. Leaves are about two feet in length and composed of very numerous, small leaflets. The flowers are white, fragrant, nearly an inch wide and grow in loose clusters. The fruit is a nine-ribbed cylindrical pod, about 15 inches long. Seeds are three-angled, winged, and yield a product called “oil of Ben” which is used to lubricate watches.
The Moringa tree, Moringa Oleifera, is very useful. Virtually every part of it is edible. The leaflets can be stripped from the feathery, fern like leaves and used in any spinach recipe. Small trees can be pulled up after a few months and the taproot ground, mixed with vinegar and salt and used in place of horseradish. Very young plants can be used as a tender vegetable. After about 8 months the tree begins to flower and continues year round.
It is an extremely fast growing tree and it is advisable to prune frequently beginning when they are young or they will become lanky and difficult to harvest. Breaking off tender tips (used in cooking) when the trees are about 4 or 5 feet tall, the trees become much bushier.
There is more good news. The edible parts are many.
The leaves are outstanding as a source of vitamins A and, when raw, vitamin C. They are also a good source of B vitamins and among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high for a plant and phosphorous is low, as it should be. The content of iron is very good (it is reportedly prescribed for anemia in the Philippines) and the leaves are an excellent source of protein and a very low source of fat and carbohydrates. Thus, the leaves are one of the best plant foods that can be found. In his book, "Edible Leaves of the Tropics", the authors,Franklin W. Martin and Ruth M. Ruberté, add that the leaves are incomparable as a source of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine which are often in short supply. A compound found in the flowers and roots of the Moringa Tree, pterygospermin, has powerful antibiotic and fungicidal effects.
Dr. Samia Al Azharia Jahn with the Deutsche Gsellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit in Germany found another unexpected use for the seeds. Suspensions of the ground seed of the benzolive tree are used as primary coagulants. They can “clarify Nile water of any degree of visible turbidity.” At high turbidities, their action was almost as fast as that of alum, but at medium and low turbidities, it was slower. The doses required did not exceed 250 mg/i. coagulating the solid matter in water so that it can be easily removed can remove a good portion of the suspended bacteria. “River water is always fecally polluted. At our sampling site, the total coliforms amounted during the flood season to 1600-18,000 per 100 ml. Turbidity reductions to 10 FTU were achieved after one hour, reducing the coliforms to 1-200 per 100 ml. Good clarification is obtained if a small cloth bag filled with the powdered seeds of the benzolive is swirled around in the turbid water.”
It seems to thrive in impossible places — even near the sea - in bad soil and dry areas. Seeds sprout readily in one or two weeks. Alternatively, one can plant a branch and within a week or two it will have established itself. It is often cut back year after year in fence rows and continues to thrive. Because of this, in order to keep an abundant supply of leaves, flowers and pods within easy reach, topping out is useful. At least once a year, one can cut the tree to three or four feet above the ground. It will readily sprout again and all the valuable products will remain within safe, easy reach. The tree responds well to mulch, water, and fertilizer, but the branches are brittle.
Of all parts of
the tree, the leaves are most extensively used. The growing tips
and young leaves are best. The leaves can be used any way you
would use spinach. One easy way to cook them is this: Steam 2
cups freshly picked leaves for just a few minutes in one cup water,
seasoned with an onion, butter and salt. Vary or add other
seasons according to your taste. In India, leaves are used in
vegetable curries, seasonings and in pickles
When young, horseradish tree pods are edible whole, with a delicate flavor like asparagus. They can be used from the time they emerge from the flower cluster until they become too woody to snap easily (the largest ones usable in this way will probably be 12 to 15 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter). At this stage, they can be prepared in many ways. Here are three:
The seeds (peas) can be used from the time they begin to form until they begin to turn yellow and their shells begin to harden. Only experience can tell you at what stage to harvest the pods for their peas. To open the pod, take it in both hands and twist with your thumbnail; slit open the pod along the line that appears. Remove the peas with their soft winged shells intact and as much soft white flesh as you can by scraping the inside of the pod with the side of a spoon. Place the peas and flesh in a strainer and wash well to remove the sticky, bitter film that coats them. (Or better still; blanch them for a few minutes, then pour off the water before boiling again in fresh water).
Now they are ready to use in any recipe you would use for green peas. They can be boiled as they are or, seasoned with onion, butter and salt, much the same as the leaves and young pods. They can be cooked with rice as you would any bean. In India, the peas are prepared using this recipe:
Blanch both peas and pods, drain. Remove milk from 2-1/2 cups grated coconut by squeezing water through it two or three times. Crush ginger root and garlic, save half for later. Mix peas, flesh, coconut milk, ginger root and garlic together with onion, bouillon cubes, oil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until the peas are soft - about 20 minutes. Fry remaining half of crushed ginger root and garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil. Dice eggs. Add coconut, ginger, garlic and eggs to first mixture. Heat through.