Known to some as “The Miracle Tree”
Known to skeptics as “too good to be true” -- Time will be the judge.
Moringa is a tree that grows easily in the tropics.. and surprisingly.. in all parts of the world where malnutrition is a real issue. AND the reason this tree is known as the miracle tree is that has the potential ability to combat and eventually rid the world of malnutrition. Native to the Himilayas.. Moringa Oleifera can now be found growing throughout most of the developing world. Trees for Life, a non-profit that works with Moringa has a map on their website (here) showing how closely the places where Moringa grows and the countries that are malnourished coincide.
The leaves, seeds, seed oil, and roots can all be eaten and all have high nutritional value. While the leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked, most often I see leaves sold in a powdered form here in Benin. Moringa is known to be rich in A, B, and C Vitamins, Calcium, Protein, and Potassium as well as providing other vitamins and minerals (depending on what part of the plant you are eating).
|image from treesforlife.org|
Aside from just being a food source, the cultivation of Moringa can aid the economy, the trees are grow very fast, they have been noted to (however it is not yet proven) enrich the soil, and also show potential in water purification as well. They are not the greatest shade trees.. but they are great for making living fences (especially for protecting gardens from roaming goats and cows).
Most of the locals that I am currently working with are aware of, and have access to Moringa already. However, within the next few months I am looking forward to receiving training on both the cultivating of Moringa, and on how to teach the nutritional benefits more effectively (especially in a country where most leafy greens get cooked until there is no nutritional benefit at all). I am also looking forward to learning more about building living fences (I think that would be really great for a school garden where the Moringa leaves could then be used by the women who make lunch!).
Completely Unrelated to Moringa :
While we are on the subject of things that grow in Africa.. there is this fruit. This strange orange fruit with big black seeds. That my close-mate and I have dubbed sticky fruit. I would love to tell you what it is called. BUT quite frankly I don't know.
A few weeks ago my close-mate showed up one afternoon on her way home from the market. With these weird fruits that we had been seeing everywhere and decided it was time for us to try them. (I had already tried them once and found them somewhat frightening but figured I would give it a second go) Anyway this fruit basically tastes like a warhead... if there was an apricot flavored warhead. By the way.. I mean the warheads from when I was a kid.. not the tamed downed ones that you buy in the candy stores these days. THE REALLY SOUR ONES. When you are finished eating said fruit, your lips feel like you just had a bubble gum mishap (there really is no other way to describe it). We joked over the way they made our mouth feel.. and compared our facial expressions to the babies eating lemons video that was big on youtube a few years back.
Yesterday, I was visiting the host fam, and my mama gave me one of these fruits to eat. Apparently if you know how to pick out a ripe one they are actually a little bit sweet. She showed me the proper way to eat them.. but she only knew what they were called in local language not in french. I now know however that the best part of the fruit is stuck to the seed (something we had previously been discarding). After eating the fruit she made a point to tell me that the final step in properly eating this weird African fruit -- is washing your lips.. since it makes your lips feel funny. Glad to know that wasn't just an American thing.
Later my close-mate informed me that the local language name for this fruit translates to “Hurt-Baby” – so basically we were spot on with our description -- and I have decided the local villagers would probably get a kick out of watching babies eat lemons.
Love and Sticky Lips