The tree of life?

In our first few days on the grounds, Buster, Laura, and I were introduced to the Moringa tree. My first view of it was outside the kitchen window in the big studio. It’s not native to Florida, but has amazing properties.

moringa tree
Matt Gamel, marine science research student, former Residency intern, and part-time volunteer studio assistant, wrote up a description of the powers of this tree:

Moringa oleifera: also know as the drumstick tree, horseradish tree, ben oil tree and most recently miracle tree or tree of life. This fascinating tree is a native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas, and is rapidly gaining worldwide interest. Dubbed “the world’s most useful tree” it offers possible solutions to malnutrition, unsanitary drinking water and even green fuel production.

Moringa leaves

The leaves: contain high amounts of protein, all eight essential amino acids, a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, and a large quantity of phytonutrients and other powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. (See the figure below for a gram-gram comparison to more common foods).
The Roots: Are used as a condiment with a flavor similar to horseradish and are used in a number of herbal remedies.

The pods: Mature seeds are high in oil, between 38–40%. This oil is edible but can also be easily processed into biofuel. There is particular interest in moringa oil as it can be produced in arid climates without competing with traditional food crops. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction has the unusual property of acting as a natural flocculent to purify polluted water, removing between 90-99.99% of bacteria.

Moringa trees are grown mainly in semiarid, tropical, and subtropical areas. They are fast growing, deciduous and can reach a height of 32-40 ft. A healthy tree can yield 1000 or more pods, with a hectare of trees capable of producing 31 tons of pods per year.

moringa tree-3For more information see this Discovery Channel documentary. And see below for more discussion and a caution.

Fascinated, Laura checked in with her brother who sent a word of caution about the toxicity of the bark of the Moringa tree’s roots. Laura’s subsequent research found this on the website of the Moringa Partners, Uniting the Plant, the People, the Planet

She sent the link to Matt, who wrote:

Hi Guys,

Just finished looking over the article about the root bark toxicity, very interesting…guess I will be careful if I ever wanted to try to making moringa wasabi :).  The only other reference to toxicity I found was from people in Africa who regularly chew the nuts as a form of immune system boost. Apparently prolonged consumption of the seeds can be hard on the stomach lining.– Interesting stuff I guess everything in moderation. Let me know if you find anything else cool.
Thanks again,

moringa tree-2
Many thanks to Laura for the photographs!


2 responses to “The tree of life?

  1. Matt and Anne,
    1. Many, many tropical plants – including many in my garden – are poisonous.
    2. Can humans eat the leaves raw or cooked?


  2. Matt talked of the leaves being tasty in salads, so I assume they’re OK raw. The article that Laura links to also says this: “The leaves are eaten as greens, used as an ingredient in vegetable curries, as well as a seasoning in other dishes.”


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