Moringa leaves, which have high contents of vitamin A, C, B6, and B2. (Courtesy photo)

The moringa tree, moringa oleifera, originates from tropical and sub-tropical areas of southern Asia, especially India. Moringa has been utilized as a medicinal herb in several cultures and in recent years (since 2000) scientists have begun research exploring some of its nutritional and medicinal properties, including ways that it can be utilized to relieve hunger.

Scientists are also investigating its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as, the possibility of moringa being used to normalize blood pressure. Culturally, over 300 different medicinal uses have been recorded which complicates research. Today, only a few human studies have been done on this plant, but it does show promise in several areas. We do know that moringa is very high in vitamins A and C, as well as B6 and riboflavin (B2), along with the minerals iron and magnesium.

Moringa grows well in our heat, but it is sensitive to cold and will drop its leaves when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Protection of young trees during cold weather is necessary. It grows quickly and is drought tolerant, once it is established. Creamy colored clusters of flowers are followed by green seed pods.

The pods, which are very high in vitamin C, may be utilized for soups, as well as seeds.

The leaves can be used in many ways. Fresh leaves can be added to soups, drinks, salads, pico de gallo, beans, or, added to quesadillas. Leaves can also be used fresh or dried to brew a tea.

Today, the Growing Growers Farmers Market will have fresh moringa, along with a mixture of dried leaves and rose petals to utilize in tea.

Moringa pods and plants will also be available. This market is located under the pavilion in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park at the corner of First Street and Business 83. The Growing Growers Farmers Market is open 9 a.m. until noon, year round.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. Listen to her gardening radio show at 710 KURV Radio every Saturday, 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., or contact her at bstorz@rcommunications.com.

Branches of a moringa tree, which originate from tropical and sub-tropical areas of southern Asia. (Courtesy photo)