Moringa oleifera is a plant native to northern India that can also grow in other tropical and subtropical places, like Asia and Africa. Folk medicine has used the leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots of this plant for centuries.
Moringa has grown from a modest crop to one of South Africa’s most promising multi-purpose crops in the last decade, according to Olwethu Laho, an animal scientist, farmer, and owner of Tshitshi SC Farmers Store in Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape.
Laho notes that moringa is well-adapted to a variety of soil types and thrives in poor soils with little or no fertilisation.
“However, the tree prefers well-drained sandy loam soils due to its susceptibility to waterlogged conditions.”
According to Laho, Moringa seeds may be sown straight into the garden, although it is recommended to start them indoors to protect the seedling from wind and harsh temperatures as it grows.
You should soak the seeds in water overnight to stimulate germination. After that, plant the seeds, 1-inch deep in a container filled with seed-starting soil.
Bottom heat hastens germination, which should take three to fourteen days. Before transplanting the plant outside, it should be hardened off.
Choose a site with sufficient sunlight and dig a hole somewhat larger than the seedling’s root ball. Backfill the hole with a mixture of soil, sand, and compost after inserting the seedling with the top of the root ball flush with the soil line.
“To avoid overwatering, gently mist the newly planted seedling after it has been planted.”
Why is moringa good for the soil?
According to Dr Qinisani Qwabe, a lecturer in the department of sustainable food systems and development at the University of the Free State and an advocate for indigenous agricultural knowledge systems (IAKS), research indicates that the leaves of the moringa tree can be processed and used as fertiliser with an extraordinary concentration of vitamins and minerals.
“Like most trees, the tree can be used for windbreaks and for the prevention of soil erosion.”
He says moringa trees are both hardy and environmentally favourable, they are drought-resistant, deep-rooted, and can survive a wide range of soil types, allowing them to thrive even under harsh situations. He claims that they can help boost soil fertility.
Alive with possibilities
Qwabe adds that Moringa is considered a great plant due to its therapeutic and nutritional benefits. This plant provides minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
“It is convenient to grow because of its heat tolerance, which is an advantage for ordinary South Africans as we are not short of sunlight in the country. It does not do well under low-light conditions. Like many other plants out there, when deprived of sunlight, it is likely to be stunted.”
Qwabe underscores that the plant’s water footprint is relatively minimal; moderate watering is required when it is young, but once fully grown, it can be drought-resistant, similar to macadamia trees – which might be a positive flag for us given our water issue.
“Now for old school people like myself who like folklore stories, the moringa tree can provide a beautiful environment from which folk tales can be told.”
Moringa’s therapeutic properties
According to Qwabe, the prevailing notion around the usage of this plant is that it boosts immunity and heals diseases such as warts, abscesses, wounds, and gingivitis.
He says that the most frequent DIY way for this is to make a moringa paste by combining a tablespoon of moringa powder, a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of rose water (each), and a tablespoon of lemon juice.
“Eating moringa seeds is also known to be essential in purifying blood and the removal of toxins from the body which can result in acne and pimples.”
The diverse benefits of moringa, which include nutritional value and medicinal applications, are what make it a miracle plant, he says.