The name of the moringa plant, which is native to India, comes from the Tamil word murungai, which means twisted pod, which is about the young fruit of the plant. The name fits the description perfectly. This drought-resistant tree is also called a drumstick tree, horseradish tree, ben oil tree, and benzolive tree.
Species: M. oleifera
Binomial name: Moringa oleifera
Moringa Leaves Trivia
- The root of a moringa plant is edible.
- Moringa seeds can remove impurities from water
- If you have a headache, rub a handful of moringa leaves on your temple.
Moringa Leaves Buying Guide
You can buy freshly-harvested, dried, and powdered moringa leaves. If you are at a farmers market where you can buy moringa powder in small quantities, make sure to bring your container for a refill. Make sure it is clean. Opt for a refill because this way, you do not use single-use plastic during purchase.
If you spot a bouquet of moringa leaves for sale, make sure to inspect the color and condition of the leaves. It should have a vibrant color and looks clean overall. If the moringa leaves have broken stalks and leaves, do not buy it.
If you are unsure which is moringa, feel free to ask the salesperson. Buy just enough for what you will use until your next visit to the market.
Moringa Leaves Production & Farming in Texas
The moringa tree can grow in a semiarid, tropical, or subtropical area. It is not picky as to what type of soil you plant it in, but it thrives best in a well-drained, sandy, or loamy soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.3 to 7. Moringa trees prefer the sun and heat and can survive even if dependent solely on rain and groundwater, but it will have difficulty in surviving freezing temperatures.
Based on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map that puts the moringa tree at 9 and 10, this means that moringa trees can thrive in Corpus Christi and Laredo (Zone 9A) and McAllen (Zone 9B).
Moringa is typically a tough plant/tree, but still, some problems need to be addressed to avoid compromising the health of the plant/tree. Some of the problems of moringa include bark eating caterpillar, hair caterpillar, green leaf caterpillar, the Noctuidae (commonly known as owlet moths, cutworms, or armyworms) which causes defoliation, aphids, stem borers, and fruit flies. These pesticides could be used to address the problem, especially if natural or organic remedies do not work.
- Rotenone – an odorless, colorless, broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide used against aphids, thrips, and other soft-bodied sucking insects.
- Malathion – an organophosphate insecticide which acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, used to fight aphids.
- Boscalid – a fungicide that is nontoxic to terrestrial animals and is moderately toxic to aquatic animals.
- Chlorpyrifos – an organophosphate pesticide that kills insects and worms.
- Dimethoate – an insecticide used to kill mites and other insects.
- Indoxacarb – an oxadiazine pesticide that targets the lepidopteran larvae.
It is common to find moringa in the wild in places like Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Oceania. In southeast and south Asia, people plant moringa trees to use as a natural fence or to have a regular source of leaves which is part of common dishes cooked in this region daily. In 2010, Hawaii started the cultivation of moringa for commercial distribution in the US. Overall, the largest producer of moringa is India.
You can buy fresh moringa leaves in the market. You can see moringa stalks in a heap and tied in a bundle. Dried and powdered moringa are sold in bottles or plastic pouches.
Enjoying Moringa Leaves
Moringa leaves are a common ingredient of food cooked in places where moringa is common. What many people do not know is that the seed pods as well as the seeds and roots (made into condiments) are also edible and regularly eaten.
You can put freshly-cut moringa leaves in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it. Another option for storing moringa is by drying the leaves. This, however, could be unnecessary since moringa is cheap, easy to grow, and commonly found ranging in the wild.
Nonetheless, if storage is necessary, then put the moringa leaves inside a plastic bag and put the plastic bag inside the refrigerator. You can also wrap it in a paper cloth or towel before putting it inside the refrigerator to extend the freshness of the moringa leaves. This will keep the leaves fresh for at least 10 to 14 days.
To freeze, put the moringa leaves in an ice tray, fill it with water, and freeze. This will keep the leaves fresh and flavorful for a year, but only if the ice cubes remain frozen at all times. If the refrigerator temperature is not consistent, it can impact the quality of the leaves inside the ice cubes.
To dry moringa leaves, spread these out on a drying screen and then place this in a warm, dry room to allow it to completely dry. Make sure to turn the leaves every two days to make sure these dry out evenly. You’ll know these are completely dry when they turn brittle.
Putting moringa leaves in a jar or bottle will preserve the aroma and taste of the dried and ground moringa for several months. Place it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
Moringa’s slender fruit is put in a stew or soup. The taste profile shows similarity with asparagus and green beans. In India and Bangladesh, these slender moringa fruits are cooked with coconut milk and spices. When cooking dishes like dal or sambar, the moringa fruit is typically crushed or mashed first before it is allowed to simmer with other vegetables and flavored by turmeric and cumin. The leaves of moringa are best for broths, like the Filipino dish tinola. Cut into smaller pieces, moringa leaves can also be added to salads and other mixed vegetable dishes like thoran from Kerala, India. Nigerians snack on dried and fried moringa seeds, while the oil of the seed is used as condiments or dressing.
Overall, the moringa has proven that it is not just nutritious but it is also very versatile as well because it can be added to every kind of food there is – smoothies, cupcakes, sauces and dips, pancakes, bread, oatmeal, even in ice creams, latte, and dietary supplements!
Moringa leaves are popular especially among health-conscious individuals because this protein-rich plant loaded with good cholesterol contains vitamins (A, B, C, D, E), minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and selenium), and amino acids which are not usually found in plants. The leaves are fully-loaded with nutrients that 100 grams of moringa leaves pack an equivalent amount of Vitamin C as that of a navel orange.
A profound role of moringa especially in poor countries and communities is helping fight the onset of malnutrition. Since moringa leaves are cheap (free even if there are moringa plants in the wild) but nutritious, using this to make soups to feed hungry children helps stave off hunger and malnutrition. Also, mothers who need to breastfeed and produce milk so that their babies don’t go hungry also rely on the ability of moringa to encourage the body of the mother to produce milk naturally.
- Calcium: 1980 mg
- Iron: 45 mg
- Potassium: 1450 mg
- Sodium: 9mg
Moringa’s iron content is enough to help us fight lethargy and exhaustion. One serving of moringa can provide three times iron compared to spinach, which makes this a good food to fight iron deficiency anemia. Including moringa leaves in our diet allows us to reap the health benefits from eating this beneficial plant, which include the following: keeping the liver and kidney healthy, treating stomach disorders, protects the body from cancer, fighting neurodegenerative diseases, maintaining bone and eye health, boosting immunity, promoting heart health, fighting diabetes, treating asthma, and preventing stone formation.