Meet the Moringa Tree

Moringa leaves with paste

This is a tree that grows in the wild, often unnoticed and disregarded. Have we ever been told that this is a store house of minerals, proteins and highly nutritious? It’s high time we take this tree seriously and include all parts of it in our daily diets. Here’s about the goodness of this tree that will not allow you to take this tree for granted anymore.

Meet the Moringa tree known for its unique value to feed poor and undernourished populations of the dry land tropics, especially in an era of climate change. If cultivated in large scale this tree could become a staple food source in the dry tropical regions all over the world. The tree is known to survive profusely in hot and dry conditions and is known for its several properties like tenacious, resilient, versatile, generous and flat-out eccentric. Nothing else in the plant kingdom can be compared to the nutritional benefits of this tree.

Although the Moringa is neither striped nor candy-colored, it does bear a certain resemblance to the Truffula tree, with its smooth, skinny trunk and affably chaotic branches, which protrude like hands waving hello. And not only does it succeed in harsh conditions, it also grows weed-fast—about a foot per month, to a height of as much as twenty feet. Moringa oleifera, the most commonly farmed species, is a nutritional Swiss Army knife: it produces edible leaves that are unusually rich in protein, iron, calcium, nine essential amino acids, and Vitamins A, B, and C. Its seedpods, which are as thick as the meaty part of a drumstick and about a foot long, are also high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

It is also found that the leaves and pods of this tree have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties, and may also contain enzymes that protect against cancer. Mature Moringa seeds can be pressed for vegetable oil, and the seed cake that is left over can be used to purify drinking water. (It contains a protein that makes bacteria glom together and die.) When dried, crushed seeds can also serve as a good fertilizer.

In India, where Moringa was first domesticated, two thousand years ago, the pods are commonly used in a popular dish called sambhar, which subdues their flavor in a rich gravy.

It is termed by many as a famine food and a last resort. Off late, the Moringa tree is gaining more popularity among wealthy, Western super-food enthusiasts than among the underserved populations of the dry tropics. Powdered Moringa leaves have become a trendy ingredient in power bars and smoothies in recent years. The Moringa tree is also now termed as a “miracle tree” and a “supergreen,” plant due to its high nutritional value.

Although there is very little data on this plant to support its nutritional claims its qualities does rival or exceed that of milk, yogurt, and eggs.  Another interesting observation of this plant is that when we look at the maps of the areas in the world where Moringa grows, and then at maps where populations are undernourished, it’s amazing to see that they almost exactly overlap. And, considering the pressures of climate change, this correlation is predicted to strengthen in the coming decades.

Many of the tree’s practical challenges can be solved by breeding a more genetically consistent, user-friendly variety—selecting for milder flavor and maximum protein and vitamin content, for heartier leaves and more tender stems.

The tree is also well-known for its mechanisms for harnessing and storing groundwater, and for moving water into its leaves. This research may help climate scientists and forest ecologists to understand how other trees will and could behave in increasingly water-scarce conditions. Finally if not for anything this tree may hold a key to surviving the hotter, drier days to come.

Source: Ayurveda Research Team

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