Move over kale, the mighty moringa tree is making a name for itself as one of nature’s most nutritious edible plants. Never heard of it? It’s coming to a farmers’ market or grocery store near you soon (if it hasn’t already), and here’s what you need to know.
Moringa is a fast-growing tree with small, rounded leaves and long seed pods. Native to South Asia, it boasts seven times the Vitamin C of oranges, four times the Vitamin A as carrots, four times the calcium as milk, three times the potassium as bananas and two times the protein as yogurt. Wowza! How’s that for packing a healthy punch?!
This veritable superfood, used in traditional medicine for centuries and revered in the Ayurvedic system of medicine, is associated with the cure or prevention of approximately 300 diseases. It’s finally making its way to markets in the Western world. Three cheers for that as we all stand to benefit.
More important is moringa’s potential to save lives in the developing world. The tree grows particularly well in subtropical areas where malnutrition runs rampant. Yet much of the population in these areas tends to view Moringa as a poor man’s crop, and farmers are not in the habit of cultivating or utilizing it for its health benefits.
It is as though they’ve had the magic beanstalk in their backyards all along.
Companies such as Moringa For Life, a farm and distributor in the U.S., are trying to de-stigmatize moringa and educate people on the why’s and how’s of making it part of a daily diet. This switch could make a huge difference, especially in health of young children and nursing or pregnant mothers in the developing world. They offer classes in cultivation and cooking across the globe, especially where Moringa already grows and where better nutrition is most needed.
Mariko Gifford, founder of moringaforlife.com, explains:
Because Moringa grows best in these areas, it takes very little to get farms established. Even getting each household to grow their own tree will have a huge impact on every family, in every community, in every region. Step by step, they can raise themselves up to be better able to deal with existing local problems that will ripple through this zone and end the vicious cycle of poverty and starvation. We have all the means. We need dedicated people to step forward and learn how to grow Moringa and teach others.”
Likewise, a recent article in NPR profiles Lisa Curtis, the founder of a company called Kuli Kuli Foods, which sells moringa products in the United States with the mission to use moringa to improve nutrition and livelihoods worldwide. Kuli Kuli Foods already sells bars, powders, and teas in 15 states with future plans for expansions and partnerships with The Clinton Foundation.
Curtis is counting on, as explained in the NPR article...
...conscientious American consumers to jump on the moringa bandwagon as a way to both add a little variety to their meals and to help support developing countries by, among other effects, encouraging farmers to feed their own communities with moringa.”
Here in the U.S., you’re most likely to first experience moringa as a leaf powder (oftentimes in an herb blend) or seed oil (for body care). We’ve seen the fresh leaves in a San Diego farmers’ market, and they can be steamed (like steamed spinach). Recipes are available on line at moringatreeoflife.com and other easily searched sources.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Moringaforlife.com When Mariko Gifford, founder of Moringa for Life harvested her first crop over 15 years ago, Moringa was it was virtually unheard of in the U.S. Read the story of how it all began here.
Moringa Projects via Moringaforlife.com
Kuli Kuli via Kulikulifoods.com