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Moringa—Specialty Crop Profile

Written by Ted Radovich on 07 February 2010.

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Because of its many uses and services, moringa is known as a "miracle tree" around the world.

 

Almost all parts of the moringa tree are used for food, oil, fiber, and/or medicine. In the Pacific, the most important products are pods and leaves. Young pods are consumed as a vegetable. Very young pods are fiberless, and can be cooked like string beans. Because the weight is low on very young pods, most commercial production involves larger, more fibrous pods that are used in soups, stews, and curries. The nutritious leaves are eaten in many dishes including soups, stews, and stir fries. Sauteed young leaves and flowers are also eaten. The demand for home consumption of pods and leaves can generally be met by one or two backyard trees.

Commercial production of mature seeds for oil occurs in India, Africa, and elsewhere. The press cake left over after extracting seed oil is utilized as a fertilizer and as a flocculent for water clarification. The seed cake contains positively charged compounds that are effective in settling suspended solids out of water (flocculation) because most particles have a net negative surface charge while suspended in aqueous solution. There is international interest in using moringa-based flocculants as a locally produced, biodegradable substitute for aluminum sulfate, which is commonly used to clarify water. The seed cake is normally not used as livestock feed because of the presence of antinutritional compounds in the mature seeds.

Leaves are readily eaten by cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits and can also be used as food for fish. Several studies demonstrate that significant proportions of traditional fodder can be replaced with moringa leaf.

Most parts of the plant are used as a medicine. The greatest contribution of moringa to health is its high nutritional value. The most common direct medical use of the plant is as poultice of the leaves and bark applied directly to wounds as an anti-microbial and to promote healing. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of moringa extracts are well documented and are thought to be derived at least in part from 4-(α-L-rhamnopy-ranosyloxy) benzyl isothiocyanate. This compound is particularly effective against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial pathogen of human beings in medically underserved areas and poor populations worldwide. The strong tradition of medical uses of moringa combined with recent scientific work supporting these traditions has resulted in increased marketing of supplements and so-called "superfoods" based on moringa.

This introduction was excerpted from the full 12-page publication: Radovich, T. 2009. Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Moringa (Moringa oleifera). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai'i.

Original source of this article

This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from

Radovich, T. 2011. Moringa (Moringa oleifera). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.