Tonielle Christensen Land & Nature Stewardship, Plant Nursery Leave a Comment



Common Name:  Moringa, Horseradish Tree, Drumstick Tree, Ben Tree, Miracle Tree, Tree of Life.

Latin Name:  Moringa oleifera.

Origin:  India.

Description (what it looks like):  A fast-growing, semi-deciduous tree up to 10m high, spreading to 3m wide with drooping branches  The stems are soft wood and cork like bark.  The leaves are fern-like and delicate, up to 50cm long.  Flowers are white to pale yellow, attractive and fragrant.  The fruit forms like ‘drum sticks’, a sturdy pod-like bean up to 30cm long.

Uses (function):  Possibly one of the most useful middle-story trees in the world.  All parts are edible.  Good source of nectar for pollinators.  Provides fuel and a raw material for cellophane and textile production.  Commonly pruned into living fences.  The seeds crushed and added to turbid water will attract particles and bacteria over a period of a couple of hours and cause them to sink to the bottom, leaving purified clear tap-like water on top.  Excellent chicken food.  Fixes nitrogen into the soil.  Makes an ideal shade tree.

Nutritional value:  Claims are made that its tiny leaves contains 7 times the Vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the Vitamin A of carrots, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, and 2 times the protein of yogurt (source: Nutritive Value of Indian Foods, by C. Gopalan, et al.).  The roots have also been documented as useful in many folk remedies.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Place woody cuttings upright in the soil (sloping end up).  Cuttings should be between 2.5-4cm thick and about 20-30cm long, with 3 buds per cutting.  Space 80-140 cm apart.  Keep pruned under 2 metres for easy foraging of leaves.  Flowers and fruits freely and continuously throughout the year.

Best time to grow:  Plant in spring and summer when the soil temperature reaches 25°C.

Soil:  Grows in semi-arid zones, on marginal soils, and in high rainfall areas with fertile soils, in both subtropical and tropical areas.

Sun:  Full sun or partial shade.

Water:  Drought tolerant, thrives with water, but needs to be well-drained.

How to eat it:  The peeled roots taste similar to horseradish and can be eaten as a vegetable or pickled.  The leaves should always be cooked - add them to soups, stews, curries and pickles.  The immature green pods are cooked and curried like okra, tasting like a combination of peanuts and asparagus.  Young seeds from within green pods are used as a vegetable (like edamame), mature seeds can be roasted and eaten like peanuts.  An edible oil, 'ben oil', is expressed from the seeds, used in salads and for lubricating delicate machinery.  The leaves can be dried and added to hot water to make a medicinal cup of tea.


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