Monday, September 13, 2010

Moringa/Molunggay: Part Two

(all pics can be enlarged by clicking on)
Here is a harvest of some fresh  moringa branches.  With about a dozen or so trees, we can pick some daily rather than have to try to preserve them, although we still want to learn to dry them and pulverize them into powder to store for winter use in foods.

They are easily snapped right off the trunks, or cut with a small knife.  The fibrous stems are inedible, but are a nutritious mulch.  We discard them by placing them around the bases of other plants needing fertilization.
A closer look at the branches.  We discard  yellowed leaves.  The foliage is remarkably insect and disease-free...very, very clean leaves need only minimal washing before eating.  The leaves have to be stripped by hand.  The scent is pungent and "green."  The leaves are good eaten fresh, and have a very peppery bite.  We prefer them mixed into other fresh greens rather than by themselves.  The taste is akin to watercress.
This is a picture we took a couple years back when we toured the ECHO global test farm in Ft. Myers, Florida.  This is one of their Moringa patches, showing how closely they can be planted and kept  cut back for harvesting multiple crops of fresh stems/leaves throughout the year.  The  nutritional content of the leaves is remarkable, and all parts of the trees have constructive uses.

Here is part of our wild and woolly patch, obviously doing well despite the naturalized conditions (not kept cultivated around the bases) and left pretty much to their own devices.  They have performed well in drought and monsoon as long as their roots are not in standing water for long periods of time, or kept soggy.  The water drains well from this area where they are planted, so we've had no problem other than keeping up with their fast growth!  We've intended to keep them cut back, and every time they shoot on up really quickly!  They are to about 12 plus feet in height at this time.  They are thin and fairly bendable, and not a good wood for building things.  But they withstand all sorts of weater extremes.  In the freezes they died back all the way to the ground and then returned by sending up shoots from the roots when it warmed back up.  These plants are the results of two such freezes and full die-backs.
Here is a batch of leaves stripped from the stems.  From here they can either be used fresh, cooked, frozen, or dried.
At first, we tried freezing them after stripping the leaves from the stems, and of course washing them well.  We drained them to get them as dry as  possible and then froze them in freezer bags.  I'm not sure how well we prefer the frozen yet.  I do  know they do not keep long in the refrigerator when bagged...some of them basically melt into mush, resulting in being dumped around outdoor plants needing fertilizer.  We have had success so far more in using them fresh, but still have yet to try drying them.

The taste?
Our FAVORITE green so far.  They are one green my husband actually likes and feels so full after eating that he said they satisfy him like meat usually does, and he's a true carnivore.  I've made black beans/Mexican red beans from scratch with a little Creole seasoning and served it with cooked Moringa leaves, seasoned only with sea salt and chopped onion (cooked along with)...simply delicious, and when I say simply, it truly doesnt get much simpler than that!

Moringa experiments continue...

And I leave you now with some more great YouTube videos.  This first is about how the Peace Corps grows moringa for easy harvests:

More on Moringa as worldwide malnutrition preventive:

And this video shows the ease with which the branches are stripped of leaves by hand:

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