Whilst reforestation of over-cleared agricultural land has always been the focus of Men of the Trees in Western Australia we have maintained the view that if trees capable of producing non-sacrificial crops can be grown then we should consider them as an economic alternative to simply replacing the ‘bush’. A tree which was tried some years ago has recently come into our sights again thanks to the initiative of Leo Kerr.
The tree is Moringa oleifera. It is native to northern India but is capable of being grown over much of the subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world.
Virtually every part of Moringa oleifera is edible and nutritional. It has pods that taste like string beans, leaves redolent of spinach, rocket or watercress, seeds reminiscent of peanuts, roots that taste like horseradish. A small serving of the Moringa’s tiny leaves has seven times the amount of vitamin C of an orange, four times the calcium of milk, and four times the beta-carotene of carrots, (C. Gopalan Nutritive Value of Indian Foods). It has been cited as a plant resource for achieving the Millennium Development Goals being capable of feeding the 2billion or so malnourished people of the developing world.
The Moringa can grow very fast under hot, dry subtropical areas where malnutrition is most prevalent and where other crops fail. It can be grown as a shrub for easier harvesting of its leaves. Its byproducts also include biofuel, cooking oil, animal feed and cosmetics. It can also help purify drinking water, the ground up seeds acting to precipitate bacteria, suspended solids and pollutants.
Our first trial seedlings were barely seven weeks old when quite unexpectedly I received news from Hugh Locke, President of the Haiti Smallholder Farmers Alliance, that this tree was being seriously considered and recommended as an export crop whilst being grown for the rehabilitation of Haiti’s naked hills where the charcoal industry has wreaked havoc. He also drew attention to the work of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York where derivatives of Moringa are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, diabetes, ulcers, infections and cancer.
If anyone growing Moringa in the temperate regions would like to contribute to our knowledge, whether cultivation or utilisation, please make contact. I acknowledge TIME Magazine and Hugh Locke as source for much of this information.