“Moringa oleifera is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Moringa, the only genus in the plant family Moringaceae. Common names include moringa, drumstick tree (from the long, slender, triangular seed-pods), horseradish tree (from the taste of the roots, which resembles horseradish), and ben oil tree or benzoyl tree (from the oil which is derived from the seeds).
M. oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree, native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India, and widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas where its young seed pods and leaves are used as vegetables, and many parts of the tree are used in traditional herbal medicine. It can also be used for water purification and hand washing.”
Many parts of moringa are edible, with regional uses varying widely:
- Immature seed pods, called “drumsticks”
- Mature seeds
- Oil pressed from seeds
Nutritional content of 100 g of fresh M. oleifera leaves (about 5 cups) is shown in the table (right; USDA data), while other studies of nutrient values are available.
The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, being a significant source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese, and protein, among other essential nutrients. When compared with common foods particularly high in certain nutrients per 100 g fresh weight, cooked moringa leaves are considerable sources of these same nutrients. Some of the calcium in moringa leaves is bound as crystals of calcium oxalate though at levels 1/25th to 1/45th of that found in spinach, which is a negligible amount.
The leaves are cooked and used like spinach and are commonly dried and crushed into a powder used in soups and sauces.
The immature seed pods, called “drumsticks”, are commonly consumed in South Asia. They are prepared by parboiling and cooked in a curry until soft. The seed pods/fruits, even when cooked by boiling, remain particularly high in vitamin C (which may be degraded variably by cooking) and are also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
The seeds, sometimes removed from more mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts, contain high levels of vitamin C and moderate amounts of B vitamins and dietary minerals.
Mature seeds yield 38–40% edible oil called ben oil from its high concentration of behenic acid. The refined oil is clear and odourless and resists rancidity. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify water. Moringa seed oil also has the potential for use as a biofuel.
The roots are shredded and used as a condiment with sharp flavour qualities deriving from the significant content of polyphenols.
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