Moringa: Food, Vegetable, Medicine

Moringa oleifera is native to the foothills of the Himalayas but can also grow well in tropical and subtropical environments. It is drought tolerant, a rapid grower, the leaves can be used as a biofertilizer and the seeds can purify water. It grows very nicely in the desert Southwest if protected from cold temperatures and frost. The Gaia Hypothesis states that we are a self-sustaining organism whether it be local, communal or global. What more proof do we need to support this hypothesis than to look at how the Moringa tree can sustain life on so many levels and in so many areas. It is given the rightful nickname of the Tree of Life.

Every part of the tree can be consumed: leaves and young fruits (pods) as food; and the seeds, bark, flowers, and roots as medicine. The leaves contain 30% protein, all essential amino acids, and have abundant levels of vitamins and minerals. Moringa contains natural anti-oxidants through its phytochemical properties which are defense mechanisms for the tree against environmental stress and pests and, when consumed, protect people against a variety of diseases. The bioactive compounds in Moringa, called isothiocyanates (ITCs), have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, obesity and inflammatory bowel disorders in both cellular and animal models. Fresh leaves of Moringa oleifera are reported to contain 11,300–23,000 IU of vitamin A, are also a good source of carotenoids, and is a source of vitamin C. Fresh leaves contain approximately 200 mg/100 g greater than an orange however, vitamin C being sensitive to heat and oxygen, is rapidly oxidized, so much so that its concentration in the Moringa oleifera dried leaves is lower than in the fresh leaves. Freeze-drying seem to better preserve vitamin C from oxidation. Moringa oleifera fresh leaves are a good source of vitamin E. Moringa oleifera dried leaves are a great source of polyphenols. a powerful anti-oxidant.

Fresh moringa leaves are tasty in salads, soups, on eggs, and anything savory. The immature pods can also be eaten like green beans, and are often found in soups. The more mature, green pods are a staple in India and are a common vegetable found in the traditional soup called sambar. The dried leaf powder offers an alternative to those who can’t grow moringa in their backyard or have access to a farm. The dried powder can be added to porridge, smoothies, tea, soups, and as an herb to any meal after it has been cooked. For those who don’t like the spicy, “healthy” taste, moringa powder is also available in capsules and tea blends. Custom made caps and moringa powder or dried leaf is available at tarasherbs.com

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