A few years ago a friend sent me some moringa trees to plant and that was my first introduction to this amazing plant. Growing moringa is easy and it can be grown as a perennial in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze and as an annual in climates where the ground freezes. They are fast growing and the leaves and seed pods are edible.
So, what’s so amazing about moringa?
How’s this for starters? Moringa leaves have 2 times the protein as yogurt, 7 times the vitamin C as oranges, 3 times the potassium as bananas, 4 times the Vitamin A as carrots and 4 times the calcium as milk. Moringa leaves also contain vitamins B1, B2, and B3, as well as chromium, copper, fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc. You can also eat the flowers and the seed pods. In fact, in many cultures, Moringa olifera is called The Tree of Life.
But that’s not all, according to WebMD, moringa is used to help with anemia, arthritis and joint pain, asthma, cancer, constipation, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, stomach pain, ulcers, headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney stones, fluid retention, thyroid disorders and bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections. It can be used topically for wound care. And it’s being used in cancer research.
Moringa also has complete amino acids which makes it an excellent choice for vegans to round out their diet.
It can be used in livestock fodder and animals love it. So you might want to protect it from rabbits, chickens, etc. while it’s growing.
And probably the coolest thing is that the crushed seeds can be used for water purification.
Of course, you can buy moringa leaves and powders for anywhere from $14-$25 a pound. But why, when you can just grow your own. Slight rant ahead – There are have been some companies that have made a LOT of money convincing people that their moringa oleifera is the only true moringa and that in order to benefit from moringa you need to purchase from them. My husband ran into one of these unsavory characters at a local health fair and he brought me the literature. The man assured my husband that there was no way we were growing it in the back yard because the company he represented had the only true moringa oleifera. Here’s the deal, if you choose to purchase moringa as a supplement instead of growing your own, that’s totally fine, I just hate that people are being misled by companies.
Moringa can be started by seeds, a cutting or by root stock. I’ve only started it by seeds. The seeds are pretty tough so I like to put them in a damp cloth or paper towel and then put them in ziplock bag that’s not zipped all the way and let them sprout before I plant them. After they’ve sprouted I plant them in small pots until they are about 4-6 inches tall.
Moringa will grow in almost any soil but it really likes well drained soil. Water regularly the first few months then just water when it seems like it needs it. Moringa is very drought resistant – which is good for me. Moringa will flower and produce edible seed pods (similar to green beans) when there’s adequate water, so if it rains a lot where you live, it will flower a lot. If it doesn’t rain much, you can force it to flower by watering.
Moringa can grow 15-20 feet in one season, so plant it where you want it, it sends a deep taproot down so it will be hard to move. Don’t be shy about harvesting the leaves, it will just produce more. In order for the moringa to have a small canopy instead of growing straight up, regularly cut the top back and it will fan out.
Moringa likes warmth so in the US it will grow best in zones 9 and up. If you live in a colder climate, you can still grow it as an annual or in a pot and bring it in for the winter.
Moringa Pest and Problems
Growing moringa in the US is usually pest free, however, if the roots are continually wet they can develop root rot, so make sure you plant in well drained soil.
Harvesting and Preserving Moringa
You can harvest moringa leaves and eat like spinach. The pods can be harvested when they are young and snap like green snap beans. They need to be harvested very young as the seeds grow super fast.
I like to dehydrate the leaves to use as in teas and in our cooking. I’ll do some throughout the summer and then before we have a freeze I’ll harvest them all and dehydrate them.
The mature seeds can be dried out stored to plant later or to crush to use for water purification.
While moringa has some pretty impressive benefits, our family uses it as food not medicine. I like to use it as a nourishing tea in the afternoon, it really doesn’t have much flavor at all so I add hibiscus or spearmint to the tea. I’ll use is fresh or dehydrated in soups, rices, or in eggs. Pretty much, I just sprinkle it on things I’m cooking to give extra nutrition. We also add it to smoothies, this increases the nutrition and reduces the cost of smoothies – which can get pricey.