Saturday, August 15, 2009


Starting small. The best place to start.

Give me a piece of land, a wide blue sky and the sun on my back. Add the birds, some trees and plants and I am smiling. God is smiling too.

I have a piece of land to work, and nurture a dream of true sustainability. My beginnings are small but I do not despise that day of small beginnings. It comes with hard work, sore muscles and many learning curves. I thought I would journal my path in hopes of meeting those of like mind who want to find solutions to price hikes, poor nutrition and the sophisticated stress levels of our modern world; together tell a simple tale of finding a better way.

My current enthusiam is the Moringa tree. I finally managed to track some seeds on the internet and they arrived in the post. Ten precious seeds. Six of them germinated. And of those six only two survived. One went to a neighbour, who is as enthusiastic as I, and the other has been planted out.

One was not enough and so I bought more seeds and have now planted out about 30 trees. They are a joy. I expect them to feed my family, myself and my livestock one day. With the coming spring I will enlarge the beginnings of my food forest with more trees.

Why Moringa?

It is a nutritional miracle and has been used in places to reverse malnutrition in children. It has been discovered that those taking Moringa show improvement within a few days rather than the usual few months when on conventional treatment. Frank Martin in "Survival and Subsistence in the Tropics" states that "among the leafy vegetables, one stands out as particularly good, the horseradish tree. The leaves are outstanding as a source of vitamin A and, when raw, vitamin C. They are a good source of B vitamins and among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high for a plant. Phosphorous is low, as it should be. The content of iron is very good (it is reportedly prescribed for anemia in the Philippines). They are an excellent source of protein and a very low source of fat and carbohydrates. Thus the leaves are one of the best plant foods that can be found."

Moringa is also known as the Horseradish tree because of the sauce that can be made from the roots. This is done when the seedlings are about 60cm tall. The bark is completely removed as it contains harmful substances. This done, the root is ground and mixed with salt and vinegar and stored in the refrigerator. It is not advised that it be eaten in excess.

Not only the roots but the leaves, flowers, bark, gum and wood are all useful.

Both fresh and dried leaves are used. I have dried the leaves for winter to add to smoothies. They can also be ground to powder and added to different dishes to increase nutritional content. The fresh leaves can be added to salads or cooked like spinach with a little onion, butter and salt.

The flowers are great for attracting bees. They can be eaten too or steeped in hot water to make a tea but I prefer to leave them on the tree because of the valuable pods they produce. These pods are food too and can be eaten when they first appear; still young and tender. Cook them much like green beans. When the pods harden into seeds these "peas" as they are called can be harvested as food too. They will take a little more effort to cook than regular peas though. There is a stickly bitter film around them that must be washed and even cooked off. The first cook water then is thrown out. This only takes a few minutes. Then they are cooked as regular peas.

The best part of the pods though is the rich Ben Oil that can be pressed from them. This has more value to me than eating them as a vegetable. The seed is said to contain 35-40% oil. It is a very useful oil that is claimed not to go rancid and burns without smoke. I have yet to prove that for myself. More later. If you do not have an oil press you can always roast the seeds, grind them up and put this in boiling water so that the oil will float to the surface. The spent pods after removing the oil are amazing at clarifying the most muddy water.

The gum found in the bark is used as seasoning over food. It has also been used in calico printing and medicines. The bark and gum can be used in tanning hides. The bark can also be beaten into a fibre to make ropes or mats.The wood produces a blue dye which is used in Jamaica and Senegal. I plan to try this with Angora wool. Paper can also be made from the wood pulp. It is no good as firewood because it is too soft and spongy.

I have heard it called the miracle tree. No surprise.

Until next time,


  1. I didn't know about the Moringa tree before. I believe it will probably grow in south central Texas, where I live. I am ordering seeds today. Thanks for the information!

  2. You're most welcome, Barb. I know of someone growing them very successfully in Florida. You should have good success. Others further up north grow them as an annual. Let me know how it goes! I'll post some info on the best ways to germinate and cultivate them.