Moringa oleifera, Moringa (Sh), uMoringa (N)
Moringa oleifera is a multipurpose tree native to India. It is well known for its wide adaptability and ease of establishment and widely grown because of the rich nutritional content of its leaves, flowers and seed.
BIZ is conducting cultivation trials with smallholders to determine the optimal planting density for commercial leaf production.
Where it can be found: Moringa is cultivated worldwide in the (sub)tropics of Asia and Africa. Though it grows best in well-drained sandy or loamy soils, it tolerates a wide range of soil and rainfall conditions. In Zimbabwe it is a suitable crop for dry land areas, found mostly in Natural Regions 4 and 5.
Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Moringa grows quickly from seeds or cuttings. It can reach a height of 4m within the first year. Initial trials show that farmers prefer a 10cm x 20cm density planting (compared to 10×10, 10×40 or 10×50): the trees produce a good leaf yield after pruning the top part of the plants as there is enough space between plants to give them a shrubby shape.
Leaves, flowers and pods can be harvested twice or even all year round. To continue harvesting throughout the year, occasional watering is needed. Leaf harvesting can be done as early as 3 months after planting, when the top part of the plants is pruned.
Average yield per ha: High-density monocropping gives the highest leaf yield per unit area. Fresh leaf yield can be 6 tonnes/ha per year according to literature. The harvest differs strongly between the dry and rainy seasons. Trees produce up to 3 tonnes of seed/ha. BIZ will learn more about yields in the drier parts of Zimbabwe from ongoing cultivation trials.
- Moringa leaves are a nutritional powerhouse. They are a rich source of essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. They also contain a significant amount of vitamin A, B-vitamins and vitamin C. The mineral wealth of moringa includes calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc.
- The immature seed pods are high in vitamin C and a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
- The seeds have 30-40% oil content. With an oleic (Omega 9) acid content of 72%, moringa oil penetrates very deep into the skin, bringing the necessary nutrients to skin and hair, helping it to retain moisture. It is helpful in dry, irritated skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The oil contains powerful antioxidants, giving it excellent anti-aging and skin rejuvenating properties. It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, helps clear acne and minimise dark spots and can be applied over scars. Moringa oil is perhaps the best natural perfume base of all oils. It absorbs the aroma of essential oils and other fragrant compounds like herbs, spices and chemicals (‘enfleurage’).
Fresh leaves can be added to salads or cooked and used like spinach, and are commonly dried and crushed into a powder added to foods (such as porridge, relishes, etc.) to add flavour and nutrition.
The young pods, popularly known as drumsticks, are used in various dishes in South East Asia.
Flowers are used for tea making.
Oil pressed from the seed is edible, has a nutty taste and has been compared in quality with olive oil. It can be used as a salad/cooking oil and is appreciated for its long shelf life. Moringa seed oil is mostly used in cosmetics though, alone or in creams, lotions, balms, scrubs, body oils and hair care formulations.
The seedcake left over after the oil extraction process is commonly used as a fertiliser, or as a flocculent to purify water.