Much Ado About Moringa
In the context of Haiti, even before the tragic earthquake of 2010 – though particularly since – the moringa tree has been a bit of a media darling. CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian, and countless others have shared nothing but gushing appraisals of the tree’s potential impact on the Pearl of the Antilles. If those first two sentences sound suspiciously like they’re preparing the ground for some kind of takedown of the mainstream media, fret not – in this particular case, you can take off you tin-foil hat and be quietly disappointed to learn that the press seem to have gotten this one right for the most part.
That said, for the eternal pessimist, here are a couple of potential downers about moringa: – While the root tastes like horseradish, it also contains a neurotoxic which can be lethal in high enough quantities. Bear that in mind before you try to spice up your latest beet dish. The bark and flowers are considered no-no’s as well in terms of eating. – Many growers report that the tree, it left unattended, can grow by 10 feet per season and quickly overwhelm everything around it. Keep a regular eye on it if you’re growing it and trim it regularly.
Putting aside the above two warnings, the plant will supply you with amazing arugula-like leaves that provide significant amounts of a variety of nutrients, from calcium to Vitamin B6, magnesium to Vitamin C. Raw, cooked or in powdered form, the leaves are also an excellent source of protein and iron, which are essential to proper development.
Aside from also providing a fully mature seed – which can be eaten or used to produce a valuable oil – moringa trees are fighting two of Haiti’s direst problems, since the plant’s aforementioned growth speed and drought resistance are helping deforestation-stricken Haiti to slowly reverse the tide of that ecological disaster, while also providing a food source to fight the malnutrition that is so rampant there. That malnutrition, especially among young children, has a direct impact on the country’s economic future, given the established link between diet and development.
Speaking of development, moringa trees offer Haitian farmers a variety of direct economic advantages. The tree can serve as a way of shading coffee plants and other crops, can provide livestock feed, fertilizer and a seed oil that can be used as an energy source instead of deforestation-causing charcoal. In addition, the leaf powder and seed oil we mentioned above can be sold as a nutritional supplement, and machine oil / beauty-product ingredient, respectively.
With moringa, there’s a lot to love, and a lot to use…
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