I’ve been meaning to share information about an interesting and uncommon plant that Emelie and I have been trying to grow since early in the Summer (by the end of May). For all of you who have never heard of it, Moringa is a plant endemic to the Indian subcontinent, It grows mostly on tropical and subtropical climates. Moringa has recently become a species of interest to many people around the world, especially in “developing” nations, due to information about the high nutritional value of the plant (some state it has the highest among all vegetables). Grown as a bush or a small tree, moringa is an incredibly resilient plant. It can survive and be proliferous in the hottest weathers without needing much water.
So how did we come about moringa? Adaeze Agu, originally from Nigeria, is a student at the Harvard Extension School. She met Kathleen Frithman, former director of the Center for Global Health and the Environment, in one of the guest lectures of the course about business and environmental sustainability she took last academic year. Agu approached Kathleen with information about the organizations she works with in the United States and Nigeria, and offered her a gift: two packs of moringa seeds. Even though the transaction of how these marble sized seeds got to us was a bit obscure at first, we got to the bottom of the mystery and sat down with Agu to interview her about moringa and her work with this peculiar plant.
We met with Adaeze Agu in our (remodeled!) office. Even though we thought it was pretty neat, Agu immediately proceeded to compare our humble abode to her children’s bedrooms (I guess we have some more organizing to do…). Having come all the way from New York to meet with us, Agu was eager to share her life story. Personal and family related issues and experiences steered Agu to develop an interest for health concerns and their correlation with food and nutrition. After running a juice bar in the United States, Agu began to gain consciousness of the positive impact the ingredients she used in her products had in the lives of her customers. In the search for more products that would benefit the health of her consumers, she came about moringa. Agu recalls that after she started using the plant, she would have people come back to her establishment awed by the perceivable changes they felt after consuming the plant. From then on, Agu started a new project: spread her knowledge about moringa in the United States. Agu now works with a company that imports moringa derided products (Moringa Revealed). Through this company she helps organize and support different groups of women in Nigeria by providing them with micro grants that incentivize individual women to come together to create moringa farms based on sustainable and fair labor practices. Agu hopes to create an African Moringa Alliance with other colleagues so that this sort of projects can be taken on in other parts of the continent.
Even though the plant might not be known because of its distinct flavor, moringa can be added to a lot of other products such as salads, cookies, oatmeal, and iced tea. Drying its leaves makes it easier to spread around any food. There is still more to know about this plant and its specific benefits. Nevertheless, moringa has become a popular crop for countries with problems of famine due to its properties as a fast growing plant that does not demand too much attention. It is hard to say with certainty how many specific nutrients or which specific healing properties (if any) the plant has because of the lack of uniform scientific finds, but moringa has been slowly gaining popularity among different groups of people and within certain markets around the world.
(pictures for this post are soon to come!)