The Drumstick Tree: Moringa oleifera
What a find! It's amazing how many uses you'll have for the Drumstick Tree.
The young leaves are edible and are commonly cooked and eaten like spinach or used to make soups and salads. They are a good source of provitamin A, vitamins B, and C, minerals (in particular iron), and cystine. The composition of the amino acids in the leaf protein is well- balanced
The older leaves are elide if you remove the tough stem but are usually dried and ground to a powder as a nutritional supplement.
The triangular, long green seed pods are a delicious vegetable. Young green pods are very tasty and can be boiled and eaten like green beans. The pods are best for human consumption at the stage when they can be broken easily without leaving any visible strings of fiber. They are rich in leucine. The seeds must first be boiled for a few minutes to remove the fine transparent hull and the water drained before they are eaten. Seeds should be eaten green before they change color to yellow. The hull is not desirable as food because it tastes bitter.
The dried seeds are a very good source of oil. Let the seed pods dry on the tree for this: some branches may need propping up, they get so heavy with pods. De-hulled seeds (kernels) are approximately 42%.oil which can be used as vegetable cooking oil. It's 13% saturated fatty acids and 82% unsaturated fatty acids.
The grated roots taste like horseradish.
And here's the real kicker: the ground-up seeds actually purify water. The seeds of the Moringa Oleifera tree contain a cation (a positive charged ion), which acts as a coagulant in dirty waters. Natural coagulants have been used for centuries in traditional water treatment practices throughout certain areas of the developing world. Crushed Moringa seeds clarify and purify water to suit domestic use and lower the bacterial concentration in the water making it safe for drinking. The seed powder is as effective as technical, non-organic water-clarifying agents, such as aluminum sulphate (alum).Depending on the quantity used, it removes 90-99% of bacteria contained in water. More on this later.
Add this this that it grows very quickly and makes a great forage material for cattle and livestock. The leaves are rich in protein, carotene, iron and ascorbic acid and the pods are rich in the amino acid lysine.
It's native to the southern regions of the Himalayas and widely cultivated in developing countries of Africa, South America, Asia and the Caribbean Islands. Moringa Oleifera is also cultivated in the US and it’s gaining in popularity. Those of you dealing with the California drought take note that it only needs an annual rain fall of 10-16in (250-1500mm). If you live in the American south, southwest, or drought-stricken CA this is a good outdoor crop but it grows indoors, too. This is a tree that grows mainly in semiarid and subtropical areas. It grows best at temperature between 77-95°F (25-35°C).
It can grow as tall as 52 ft tall (15 m.), 15 ft (4 m) in the first year, but you can keep it shorter for ease of harvesting. And if you're doing the gray man defense and using edible landscaping, your HOA or neighbors will not realize what a treasure trove it is.
Okay. I am convinced. How do I get some and plant it?
Even if you don’t have a lot of space in your garden you can grow multiple trees in just ten sq ft (1 sq m). Plant them in a sunny spot. Water the trees regularly for the first two months , then only when you notice that the tree is suffering and leaves change color. It grows best in well-drained soils and it doesn’t tolerate over-watering or flooding. Harvesting can be done after 50-60 days of growth.
If you live in an area that has a true winter, where it freezes and snows, you should plant Moringa in pots or in a greenhouse. You should know that the tree loses its leaves when the average temperature drops below 70°F. (I will try some indoors and some outside to see if it regenerates after our short winter in SC).
If you grow nothing but these trees in just 43 sq ft (4 sq m) , you will have fresh leaves all year round. It is more than enough to feed a family of five. For this Survival Plot you will need to do the following
Recondition the soil in an area of land of 43 ft2 (4 m2) and dig it 2 ft (0.6m) deep by mixing it with equal parts manure and fill it back into the pit.
Water this thoroughly and allow the resulting mixture to decompose for six weeks
Sow your Moringa using seeds or seedlings (at least four; 1 per sq meter)
After 60 days of growth you can harvest Moringa Oleifera. The harvesting should be done at 18in (45cm) above the ground.
A word of advice: If you have domestic animals (especially goats) make sure you protect your Moringa Oleifera trees with a fence.
Below is a picture of someone's 5-week growth progress of their Moringa Oleifera :
Great post with good information that may open up a whole new avenue of thought about food security. I have discovered throughout this year a huge amount of wild edible food right in my own yard through the help of a local permaculture expert. One of the best is the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila). The most hated and poisoned tree ever is tasty and nutritious! You can eat the seed pods as they are or dehydrate them with a little coating of oil and salt to eat like chips, you can eat the young leaves and older leaves just like the Moringa. It's great forage and grows incredibly fast so is great for coppicing and composting. Beavers love it and may leave your fruit trees alone. I am currently trying out the trunks as mushroom logs but they haven't had enough time yet for me to know if it will work. And it is incredibly drought tolerant as anyone who has them sprouting up in their yard knows. Other leaves I have recently discovered that are used in other countries include the mulberry and of course grape leaves. These are both usually lacto-fermented and used as wraps. I recently learned that the Japanese eat maple leaves as tempura.
A great salad my permaculture friend made was Siberian Elm leaves finely shredded, grated carrots, finely chopped apples with a vinaigrette dressing. It was delicious.
So although I have nothing against the Moringa, I think it is even better to use a tree that already grows where you live. I would wonder if there aren't edible tree leaves everywhere on earth. We just don't generally realize it. It wouldn't seem logical to me that the only edible tree leaf would be one tropical tree. I know someone in Tucson who eats off the "bean" trees of the Sonoran Desert.
So by all means experiment with the Moringa – but that's work. And cost. Or you could find a local wild foods "nut" (most people won't even consider wild foods so your Siberian Elm survival flush is totally safe – you won't even be able to give it away or convince others to try it) and find out if there is something equivalent for no work and no cost that is possibly already growng. Anyway, have fun while doing this! Cheers, Jan
Thanks Wendy and jandeligans for the info. I've recently started researching this sort of thing more. I've heard of Morninga but I suspect I'm too far north for it to grow well being in Michigan. I've also recently read about young Siberian Elm and Mulberry leaves being edible. I appreciate the extra info about the Elm. I've actually got a couple varieties of Mulberry ordered from a nursery for planting later this fall. I have a fair number of elms already but I'm pretty sure they are American elm. It would behoove me to really nail down the identification though.
Another tree with edible leaves I want to start growing is the Basswood tree or Linden (Tilia). I haven't tried it yet as I only learned about it recently after the best season to harvest the leaves. I guess the young ones are the best.
Thanks Jan – I knew we had edible leaves on our mulberry (young leaves only or toxic), and that they're high in protein, too. I was unaware of the Siberian Elm but am fairly certain we do not have room for one.
David, you will never regret putting in mulberries. Our mulberry tree keeps the squirrels busy while our strawbs are fruiting and there is still plenty for us humans. The fruit can be used like blackberries, strawberries or blueberries and they grow FAST. Our 1-ft bare-root stick was planted 5 years ago and now shades the southeast side of our house, 25-ft tall. We're still using fruit from it this year – I have bumbleberry (mostly mulberry, but with blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) pie in the oven at the moment.
I live on the Gulf Coast. Mine grew to 25' in 3 months.
Wow, Mark, that's an amazing growth rate. And I thought my mulberry growing to 25-ft tall in 4 years was fast. Y'all who have little time to prepare and can grow this in your area – take note!
My next door neighbor kept checking to see if a giant was climbing down. He asked be where I got the Jack-and- the-bean-stalk seed.