Moringa – as a Vegetable

We have a Haitian friend who comes by periodically to check up on the progress around our little farm. We first met him when he answered an ad we had placed in the paper to sell some of the gang of little male goats that had been born earlier in the year. He asked if he could walk around and look at everything. We obliged.

The Haitian gentleman was thrilled to see that we had chickens and immediately asked about eggs, old hens and roosters. He said he missed the flavor found in chickens that were allowed to roam freely. About that time, he turned and saw the moringa trees lining the fence. He ran over to them, shouting and laughing. I didn’t understand a word he was saying and I’m not sure if my sister understood him but he finally slowed down and reverted to speaking English. He was thrilled to see that we had moringa trees. He calls them something else, though, and I still can’t understand him when he talks about it. He asked if he could have some… and we said yes, in spite of the fact that we weren’t sure exactly what or how much he wanted.

He began snapping off the new growth at the tip of each branch,

Moringa Leaf Tips
Moringa Leaf Tips

about 10-12″ of it, stems and all. At this stage, the stems are soft and green. We asked him how he planned to use it. “Cook it, like spinach” was his immediate reply. “Cook it in soup with other vegetables” came next. He took a nice bag full of it and was just as thrilled with the moringa as he was with the goat he had purchased.

Chewan visits us regularly now, always asking about goats and “the trees”.

And so, although we had only seen the medicinal side of moringa ourselves, we learned that in many third world countries, moringa is also a basic vegetable, cooked and eaten as an everyday part of life.

“Frost” on the Pumpkin, indeed!

Well, that bit of frost in early December turned into a hard freeze with the temperature dropping to 24 at one point. I was totally unprepared for THAT, so needless to say, we lost a lot of plants. Not the pumpkins, though.

My prized, very old Desert Rose plants both appeared totally dead. I could only hope some roots deep in the pots might send up new shoots, if and when spring arrived. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe the Earth has tilted on its axis and we are living in Zone 4 these days!

The big, very old white plumeria was ruined. Once again, hope was all I had.

The clump of bananas was totally black. I figured the trees were beyond hope, from the looks of them.

Naturally, the starfruit tree suffered. That poor thing has died back to the roots every winter since we planted it. The worst part was that it finally had a single small fruit this time. Sigh!

And all the moringa trees were dead.

All the ruined plants really depressed me. On top of that, a family situation developed that really changed life on our little farm.

Oh, well. Life goes on whether you feel depressed or not.

And around here, Winter disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived. We got a totally surprising rainfall and the weather has stayed somewhat warmer than normal ever since. By February, it was firmly into Spring and of course that meant “garden time”.

This year I decided to go back to container gardening, using the many Earthboxes I have, rather than struggling with raised beds and all the multitude of soil-born problems.

First of all, I tore up the raised beds and raked the soil in them over the low spots in the garden area. I kept the beds that run along the fence but I’m using them a bit differently. Instead of using them to grow vegetables, I’ve planted one section with three Barbados cherries and a citrus tree. The other section has blackberries planted. Since the fruiting plants are still quite small, I’ve planted some veggies in between them.

Then, I rolled out the heavy black stuff that I normally use as flooring in the shadehouse. It’s that woven plastic stuff you see in most plant nurseries. Keeps out the weeds and grass and provides a clean walkway.

Then I lined up the Earthboxes and started filling them with fresh soil.

I’ve used Earthboxes for a number of years in my container garden, but as with anything else, I only followed the directions for the first year or two. Then I began modifying little things here and there… and eventually my Earthbox garden became a weedy, tangled mess that didn’t produce much at all. That’s why  I tried the raised beds when we moved here. This year, I’m going back to the basics and following the instructions to the letter.

I have pictures of the various stages of my Earthbox container garden. Stay tuned as I get them uploaded. Trust me… you will be totally amazed at my garden this year!


I have a moringa tree growing in my back yard, mainly because the story I heard when I visited Echo a few years ago fascinated me. At the time, my oldest son was in dire condition with Crohn’s Disease and the tale they told sounded so much like a miracle that I just had to try it. If this tree could save the starving babies in Africa, why couldn’t it save my son, who was wasting away before my eyes?

Besides, I’m a great one for edible landscaping and the thought of being able to eat just about any part of this tree thrilled me.

Also known as the Drumstick or Horseradish Tree, Moringa Oleifera is one of the world’s most useful plants. It’s cultivated in many 3rd world countries for its leaves, fruits, flowers and roots for a variety of medicinal and nutritional purposes. Its seeds are used for water purification, its roots can be grated and used as a horseradish substitute, its flowers are delicious dipped in batter and fried… and the immature seed pods make a tasty bean-like vegetable . Every bit of the moringa has a use. However, the leaves are most precious. According to the Trees for Life organization, gram for gram, Moringa leaves “contain 7 times the vitamin C in oranges plus 4 times the calcium in milk plus 4 times the vitamin A in carrots plus 2 times the protein in the milk plus 3 times the potassium in bananas.” Moringa leaves “could practically wipe out malnutrition on our planet.” Moringa is a sub-tropical tree. A mature tree can tolerate only very mild frosts; any frost at all will kill a young tree. Highly drought resistant, once established, although leaf production is severely reduced during times of drought. Can be difficult to transplant if the roots are disturbed. Grows up to 35 feet in height under favorable conditions. Zone 10. Moringa: leaves, flowers and seed pod

My first moringa tree was grown in an Earth Box and it was doing quite well. I was adding the leaves to my salads and enjoying them until the time I decided to have a salad made with only moringa, no lettuce. Okay. There was a slight off-taste that I can’t quite describe but it wasn’t one that I liked. From then on, even the tiniest bit of moringa in my salad brought out that flavor. I gave the tree to my parents.

Then, when my son had lost so much weight due to his Crohn’s disease, I decided to try talking him into trying the leaves. Moringa has been shown to save African infants dying of starvation and malnutrition, when they are so far gone that they can’t even keep food down when it’s given to them. Why not try this with my son, to see if his damaged digestive system could handle the leaves or even tea made from them?

So, I bought another small tree and planted it in an Earth Box, too. At the time, my back yard flooded with every hard summer rain, sometimes staying flooded for a week or more before the water drained away. I didn’t want to take a chance on planting it in the ground and losing it.

This tree was much prettier than the first one and the leaves totally lacked that off-taste I had grown to hate earlier. I was munching on the leaves as I worked outside, as well as adding them to my salads. My son was essentially laughing at me and my ideas, even as he wasted away before my eyes.

Then came Hurricane Charley. The entire top was broken off my moringa tree, leaving me with a 4 foot, naked pole with a shattered top. I sawed off the jagged edge, down to where I could get a smooth cut, and then waited, hoping for the best.

The tree was never happy after that. It put out a new branch but it seemed as though the leaves died as fast as they formed.

In the meantime, since we lost so many big shade trees, I gave my son 3 little moringa sprouts, each just a few inches tall. These things grow FAST so I figured they might provide some shade faster than other trees. He didn’t have to eat them… but they would be available.

Well, he neglected those poor little things pitifully, for months. Eventually he got around to building a series of raised beds for a garden. He planted one little moringa tree (about a foot tall now) into the center of each bed. His reasoning was that they would provide some light shade for his garden, to help block the hot summer sun, and the falling leaves would provide food for the garden as a natural mulch.

He called me about a week later and asked if I could come to his house to look at the trees. He was practically in shock that they had grown nearly 6 inches in a week. So I went to look at them and it was truly amazing. You could almost see them grow now that they had room to spread their roots. I plucked a leaf and munched on it, just to see if he had the good tasting varieties. He looked at me as though I was weird but he humored me when I suggested he taste just one leaf. He had the good-tasting variety.

Not long after that, he had another severe attack with his illness and out of desperation, he tried my suggestion and ate some leaves, all the while swearing he wouldn’t be able to keep them down. Amazingly, he not only kept them down but within a few days’ of eating the leaves regularly, he felt better.

My son kept on eating a handful of moringa leaves every day and one day appeared on my doorstep, offering to help me with the brick patio I had decided to build. He had some color in his face and certainly more energy than I’d seen in a very long time.

Suffice it to say that he is still eating moringa every day… and has increased his “forest” to nearly a dozen trees.

Leaf production drops drastically in the dry months so his answer was to plant more trees. He has gained a substantial amount of weight and is now back to work full time. He hasn’t had an attack of Crohn’s for over a year now.

Neither of us is medically trained in any way. We’re just former full-time farmers who still enjoy getting our hands dirty in a garden and who believe in the power of whole foods, grown organically. My son’s doctors have no explanation for his current state of health but one of them told him “Whatever you’re doing, continue doing it because it’s working wonders for you!”. He has been off all pain medication for over a year now and for the first time in his life, he has joined the rest of
us in worrying about gaining too much weight.

Is the moringa truly a “miracle tree”? We believe it is. And an awful lot of formerly starving people in Africa and other third world countries agree with us.