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Friday, November 27, 2009

Moringa oleifera : Harvesting pods and leaves

Whenever harvesting pods for human consumption, collect them while they are still young and immature, are less than ½ inch in diameter (about the standard size and length of a green bean) and easy to snap.

Older pods develop a tough fibrous exterior similar to that of artichoke leaves, but the white seeds and flesh remain edible until the ripening process begins. You will find additional information on cooking and processing pods in the recipe file.

The leaves can be harvested also, and made part of a fresh salad; used in omelets, as lettuce substitute in sandwiches, cooked like spinach and even used as a parsley substitute in garnishes. Never include leaf stems as part of any edible portion. We are currently scouring the internet and ethnic populations to compile a recipe file for epicurean gourmets and adventuresome souls as well.

Of course, you can also dry the harvested leaves and make an incredibly nutritious and tasty green tea in the traditional Chinese way by breaking them up and steeping them in hot water. It might interest you to know that it is possible to make tea with the leaf powder also by means of a standard coffee maker, in reality all you have done is substitute Moringa powder for the coffee grounds.

Another possibility after harvesting the leaves is to hang them up to dry just as you would basil, rough crush them and then use them in soups and sauces. Just be careful to exclude all the stems

A further advantage of these freshly dried leaves is that by running them through your coffee grinder and making a very fine powder, you can fortify smoothies and power drinks. , failure to do so will treat you to a new experience; because you will find them as tender, tasty and delightful as pieces of toothpicks in your food.

We in the American Southwest are in luck because we can grow Moringa trees outdoors. While this tree can sustain temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit, it does not like the cold and will lose it leaves for the winter as soon as the temperature drops and stays below 70 degrees.

For those westerners who live in areas that have a true winter, like New Mexico where it freezes and snows, it is recommended that Moringa be planted in pots, keeping them outside in the spring and summer and bring them inside when it gets cold. A greenhouse, if you have one, is ideal for this task, because the plant will die if it freezes completely, although it should be duly noted that it can and will withstand short term mild frosts.

There are 12 Species of Moringa trees and they are among the heartiest and fastest growing on earth. The most common species is the Moringa Oleifera which is the one we offer, and the one used for most, if not all, of the research done in the areas of nutrition, water purification, live stock feed, vegetable dyes, herbal medicine and oil production. It just so happens to be that Moringa Oleifera is also the most plentiful of the 12.

Moringa grows in a variety of climates and substandard soils. On average it normally grows a foot per month if it is not pruned. When properly nourished, it is one of the fastest growing biomasses on the planet. The seed stock we use to grow our trees and that we also have for sale as well; comes from India and can be expected to attain its full height of 36 feet in 3 to 3 ½ years if it is not pruned.

Commercial Moringa plantations usually crop the trees so they don’t exceed 9 to 12 feet tall. The reason is that such a height allows the harvesters reasonable access and the cropping encourages horizontal growth for greater leaf production. Depending on your intent (harvesting and eating the immature pods, for instance) you might consider doing the same.

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