Friday, September 25, 2020

Moringa… The Tree of Life

Moringa flowers may be eaten if cooked.

Moringa flowers may be eaten if cooked.

PLANT TALK
Mike Malloy
mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com

If you’ve read the newspaper, watched TV or surfed the Internet lately, chances are you’ve probably come across a story about a specific miraculous, multi-purpose tree. Moringa grows easily and amazingly fast and is almost entirely edible by humans or farm animals. An important food source in developing countries, it has been aptly named the “tree of life.” Moringa is also highly sought after worldwide for its numerous health benefits. Its seed meal can even be used for purifying water.

The nutritional value of Moringa is off the charts. A single fruit contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times more vitamin A than carrots, four times more calcium than milk, three times more potassium than bananas, and twice as

The nutritional value of Moringa is off the charts.

The nutritional value of Moringa is off the charts.

much protein as yogurt!

Moringa isn’t a new discovery. The fruit from the Moringa tree was highly valued by ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations. It is native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India.

Cultivation of the Moringa tree is currently on the rise in Africa, Asia, South America, Jamaica, and throughout the tropics. Moringa can be grown year-round in tropical and sub-tropical climates and annually in more temperate zones. It’s the sole genus in the flowering plant family Moringaceae. The two most widely cultivated species are (oleifera) and (stenopetala).

Moringa does well here in South Florida as it is drought tolerant and loves warm weather and sunshine. However, be forewarned, it will die back in a freeze. But like most Florida-friendly plants, it will

This tree grows fast, so prune often and accordingly. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

This tree grows fast, so prune often and accordingly. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

come back.

Did I mention that the Moringa tree grows very fast? In order to keep it manageable and encourage branching, pinch back some top growth and cut the branches in half, length-wise. I recommend maintaining its height at around 6 to 12 feet. A smaller stature will come in handy when it’s time to harvest its fruit, seed pods (also known as drumsticks) and blossoms. If the Moringa’s growth is left unchecked, before you know it, you’ll have a really ugly tree on your hands with sparse lower branches and unreachable fruit.

Moringa has a taproot similar to carrots and small feeder roots, but no problematic branching roots. Moringa can be grown as a hedge or a specimen tree. If you choose the container method, make

The tree is sought after for its numerous health benefits.

The tree is sought after for its numerous health benefits.

sure the pot you select is deep enough, and use well-draining sandy soil.

For you chefs out there, the flower buds should be cooked before eating. The seeds can be eaten either raw or cooked. Leaves can be eaten raw directly from the tree or shredded into salads, etc. Take a pass on the root, though. It supposedly tastes horrible, and in fact, can be fatal.

If only 50 percent of the amazing nutritional claims about Moringa are true, I’m going to start incorporating its seeds, oil and leaves into every meal I eat. I started using Moringa about two weeks ago and have found it to be working as an appetite suppressant. As far as the arthritis in my hands, knees and shoulder – nothing YET.

Stay healthy and

KEEP BUTTERFLYING!!!

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