Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry (http://agroforestry.net/scps)
Farm and Forestry
Production and Marketing profile for
By Ted Radovich
USES AND PRODUCTS
Almost all parts of the moringa tree are used for food, oil, fiber, and/or medicine. In the Pacific, the most important
products are pods and leaves. Young pods are consumed as a
vegetable. Very young pods are fiberless, and can be cooked
like string beans. Because the weight is low on very young
pods, most commercial production involves larger, more fibrous pods that are used in soups, stews, and curries. The nutritious leaves are eaten in many dishes including soups,
stews, and stir fries. Sauteed young leaves and flowers are
also eaten. The demand for home consumption of pods and
leaves can generally be met by one or two backyard trees.
Commercial production of mature seeds for oil occurs in
India, Africa, and elsewhere. The press cake left over after extracting seed oil is utilized as a fertilizer and as a flocculent for water clarification. The seed cake contains positively charged compounds that are effective in settling suspended
solids out of water (flocculation) because most particles
have a net negative surface charge while suspended in aqueous solution. There is international interest in using mor-
inga-based flocculants as a locally produced, biodegradable
substitute for aluminum sulfate, which is commonly used to
clarify water. The seed cake is normally not used as livestock feed because of the presence of antinutritional compounds
in the mature seeds.
Leaves are readily eaten by cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits and can also be used as food for fish. Several studies demonstrate that significant proportions of traditional fodder can be replaced with moringa leaf. A study in Fiji reports significant weight gain over traditional fodder when 50% of fodder contained moringa (Aregheore 2002).
In Nicaragua, cattle feed consisting of 40–50% moringa
leaves is mixed with molasses, sugarcane, and grass. Moringa leaf meal can be used to substitute up to 10% of dietary protein in Nile tilapia without significant reduction in growth. However, excessive feeding with moringa can
reduce weight gain in livestock. Animals given fodder with
80% moringa in the Fijian study above showed lower weight
gain than animals on 50% moringa fodder. Adverse effects
resulting from high rates of moringa in feed are due to ex-
Left: Very young pods contain little fiber and can be cooked like string beans. Right: Commercial production of moringa leaf in Kunia, O‘ahu, primarily for export to the U.S. mainland (West Coast) and Canada.
Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Moringa by Ted Radovich
cessive protein levels, and potentially anti-nutritional compounds in the leaves such as nitrate, oxalate, saponin, phytate and isothiocyanates. Raffinose and stachyose may cause flatulence in monogastrics (Foidl and Paull 2008). Moringa
biomass is reportedly low in lignin and may be valuable for
ethanol production (Foidl and Paull 2008).
Bwana-Simba (2006) lists these other traditional and contemporary uses for moringa: •
wood yields a blue dye used in Jamaica and Senegal
live fence posts
crop plant growth promotion from leaf extracts (mechanism unknown) •
wood pulp is suitable for making newsprint and writing paper •
bark may be beaten for fiber (for paper).
Most parts of the plant are used as a medicine. The greatest contribution of moringa to health is its high nutritional value (see “Nutrition” below). The most common direct medical use of the plant is as poultice of the leaves and bark applied directly to wounds as an anti-microbial and to promote healing. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of
moringa extracts are well documented and are thought to be
derived at least in part from 4-(α-L-rhamnopy-ranosyloxy)
benzyl isothiocyanate. This compound...
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