Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Growing Moringa Trees

My friend Sharon, who is from the Limpopo province in South Africa, passed through Phokeng en route to Mafikeng. So she stopped for a night at my house.

She was my younger sister's roommate at varsity, so she's like a little sister to me and her visits are basically a home-coming and for years, she'd come to visit my parents even when neither my sister nor I were home. Her biological family farms vegetable produce - peppadews for the international market and other veggies for a number of retailers, so we always have a lot to talk about regarding my garden.

She also knows a lot about indigenous herbs and plants and has taught me quite a bit about what "weeds" I can use for medicinal purposes. [There was the weed I struggled to kill for several seasons and when I eventually asked for her advice, she said how I needed to cultivate it because it was a multipurpose herb. A strong one necessary for every household, as it turned out. ]Anyhoo, that is how she also introduced me to moringa tea.

Usually, when she visits she brings me moringa tea leaves, but we decided that was not a sustainable thing, as we never know when she'll be back in my neck of woods, considering she lives more than 700km from Phokeng ( I think, but could be further). So she brought me moringa seeds along with my fresh supply of tea when she was passing through.

Yesterday we spent some time in the garden planting the trees. We put around 30 seeds into the soil. We'll see how many seedlings that will result in. I may end up transplanting some of the saplings into the rest of the yard, or maybe even giving away some of them.

So What Is Moringa?

The full name is Moringa oleifera, andit is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that many people call a "miracle tree" or a "tree of life" because of the huge amounts of nutrients it carries. It is used in nutrition-programmes in countries like India and Ghana, and and a lot of people say how it has multiple times the amount of nutrients you can find in traditional food sources. For example, here is a comparison for some nutrients from fresh leaves with common foods (Values per 100gm. edible portion (source: Trees for Life International)



Other Foods

Vitamin A   6780 mcg   Carrots: 1890 mcg
Vitamin C   220 mg   Oranges: 30 mg
Calcium   440 mg   Cow's milk: 120 mg
Potassium   259 mg   Bananas: 88 mg
Protein   6.7 gm   Cow's milk: 3.2 gm

Basically, the leaves can be used as food flavorant or tea.  They can also be dried and stored for future use.
Once the plant has grown enough to flower, they will produce green pods, which you can cook up pretty much like you do green beans. You can also put them in curries. When the pods dry, take out the seeds, which you can then eat as snacks. Oils pressed from the seeds is also used in making cosmetics.

Sharon warned me against eating the roots. She said they have too high a concentration of nutrients and the body may not react comfortably to the influx. I also came across this video, which recommends that we only stick to the leaves. The rest of the plant could cause some side-effects, they said.

So basically, the usual disclaimers apply: talk to your doctor and/nutritionist before you use this plant in a big way. 

As For The Taste Of It? 

I like the tea. Allowed to seep in boiling water, I then bottle it and put it out to be drunk all day as an iced tea. Palates vary obviously but sugar made my tea taste truly ghastly.

The seeds have a very strong taste. Too sweet for me, with an after-taste like I ate an odd flavour of licorice. I have, however, eaten food products flavoured with moringa.

My sister's mother-in-law is also a director in a company that produces moringa products commercially, and over the years, she has tested some moringa-flavoured food products on me, including biscuits. Overall, it was a new flavour to me, and something I needed to get used to, but good.

Growing Moringa In Your Garden

That was the easy part. We chose a boundary fence area, so the tree can grow out of the way from most of the gardens. So the trees will serve as additional boundary for us. There soil there was very good though, despite the drought, with some live worms in it. We softened it, created several small "plates" where each tree would grow, watered them and once the water had seeped in, planted the seeds. The seeds were planted in the morning, so by late afternoon, I watered the patch again. I'll keep watering it daily until the seedlings show.

Meanwhile, I still have around 500g of more seeds, some of which we'll snack on. I'll also keep cadging some from Sharon until mine grow enough to provide a continuous supply. Sharon loves chilli and I made enough chilli sauces from my fresh chilli to last me until Spring. So I have something to bribe her with:)

Anyhoo, I'm happy to mail you some seeds if you live in South Africa and want to grow the plant. Email me if you're keen

No comments:

Post a Comment