What is moringa oleifera? It is a tropical tree that grows rapidly in good conditions and produces edible leaves and fruit. The leaves are packed with nutrition, in fact they are one of the most nutritious foods on the entire planet. The seed pods are packed with protein and nutritious fats and they are why moringa trees are also called drumstick trees.
Moringa leaves are high in calcium, protein, zinc, vitamin C and other nutrients. In tropical areas, where people suffer from malnutrition, moringa trees are often planted in communities, providing nutrition for nursing mothers and undernourished children. Women who eat the leaves of the moringa tree are known to increase the flow of milk for their children.
Moringa leaves can also be fed to livestock, although with current technology, the leaves tend to flavor the milk or the meat with a ‘green’ kind of taste, which is not pleasant.
Moringa trees are tropical, and will not survive freezing weather or frost. They are so delicate to cold temperatures, that even a large, strong tree will die all the way down to the root if it gets a little bit cold at night. Even so, it is possible to grow moringa as an annual crop in many places. The tree grows for the summer, harvested in 30 day increments and then the roots are tilled at the end of the season, providing biomass for the soil and breaking up impacted soils.
Because moringa is grown around the world in many different tropical areas, there are many different varieties. Some varieties are grown for leaf production, while others are grown primarily for their fruits. There are even populations of people who eat the fruit and who don’t even know that the leaves are nutritious and good to eat also.
One downside for the consumption of the leaves is that they are a natural laxative. If moringa leaves are included in a person’s diet, they should start with a small quantity each day, gradually increasing the quantity until their body becomes acclimatized to the increased nutrition.
Overconsumption of moringa is dangerous. Moringa leaves are high in nutrients, and they are also high in natural compounds that are difficult for the human body to process. There have been documented cases of people consuming large quantities of a related plant known as moringa stenopetala and having trouble with kidneys.