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Traditional Crop of the Month

Moringa

There are 13 species of moringa, of which the drumstick tree, also known as the ben oil tree or horseradish tree (Moringa olifera), is the most widely cultivated. Other species include the cabbage tree (Moringa stenopetala).

Description

Moringa is a genus of shrubs and trees with multi-purpose uses: its leaves, roots and immature pods are consumed as a vegetable. All parts of the moringa tree – bark, pods, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots, and flowers – are edible. The leaves are used fresh or dried and ground into powder. The seed pods are picked while still green and eaten fresh or cooked. Moringa seed oil is sweet, non-sticking, non-drying and resists rancidity, while the cake from seed is used to purify drinking water. The seeds are also be eaten green, roasted, powdered and steeped for tea or used in curries.

Where it is found

Moringa is an important crop in India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and the Sudan, and is being grown in West, East and South Africa, tropical Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida and the Pacific Islands.

Moringa oleifera is the economically most valuable species and is native to South Asia, where it grows in the Himalayan foothills but is widely cultivated across the tropics. Nine species occur in eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and Somalia, of which eight are endemic to Africa.

How to eat it

Moringa leaf korma

Ingredients: 2 cups tender plucked leaves of moringa; 1/2 cup split green gram with skin, washed soaked in 2 cups water; 1 carrot peeled, chopped; 5-6 French beans chopped; 1 potato, scrubbed, washed, grated; 3-4 green chillies; 1" piece ginger grated; 1 stalk curry leaves; 2 pinches asafoetida powder; 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder; 1/2 tsp. each cumin & mustard seeds; salt to taste; 2 tsp. lemon juice; and 2 tbsp. oil.

Procedure: Chop, wash and drain the moringa leaves. Heat half oil in a pressure cooker. Add carrots, drained gram, beans, and the chopped chilli. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add potatoes, leaves, ginger, stir, add two cups hot water. Add turmeric, salt, mix well. Put lid, cook for two whistles. Cool cooker, remove lid. Add salt and lemon juice to taste.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil in small pan, add cumin and mustard seeds. Once they begin to splutter, add curry leaves, and remaining chillies (halved). Pour into while sizzling, into korma. Stir gently, serve hot with steamed rice.