The taste is unusual and the sector is becoming a big business. However, it should be noted that financing a superfood enterprise like moringa, requires creativity.
These were the sentiments of a farmer, Francis Miano from Nyahururu, who has ventured into the superfoods enterprise focusing on moringa and hibiscus.
In his view, these plants when grown by small farmers in sustainable ways, can protect the planet from climate change and provide income to farmers and their families.
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According to Miano, the demand for value-added products of moringa is growing hence the need for technology and infrastructure support with a focus on precision farming technologies for enhancing productivity.
“An intervention should be established, something like a research centre for moringa for tapping its potentials both in production, processing for value addition and export,” he says.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.) belongs to the family ‘Moringaceae’ and is a fast-growing multipurpose medicinal tree extensively grown in the tropics and subtropics of India and Africa.
It is widely used as a vegetable and grown commercially for its edible pods and leaves. Moringa oleifera is an important food commodity that has had enormous attention as the ‘natural nutrition of the tropics.
The leaves, fruit, flowers, and immature pods of this tree are used as highly nutritive vegetables in many countries.
Moringa is often known as the “miracle tree,” mainly because every part of it benefits humans and animals.
The leaves, roots, bark, seeds, and seed cake can be used for a variety of things, including food, medicine, and water purification.
The name “Drumstick Plant” or “Drumstick Vegetable” comes from the shape of its seed pods, which resemble drumsticks.
They start out green and turn brown as they mature, eventually reaching a length of 12 inches (30 cm). The tree can take up to eight months to fully mature.
Other species of moringa include Moringa arborea, Moringa rivae, and Moringa stenopetala which are endemic to Kenya and Ethiopia, Moringa longituba, Moringa barziana, Moringa drouhardii among others
Some of the benefits said to be from moringa are regulating blood sugar, decreasing inflammation, supporting the immune system, improving digestion, promoting heart health, and reducing depression.
Miano produces some value-added products from moringa and hibiscus. His business, known as Nature Health Garden which he started about 10 years ago, aims to provide alternatives with health benefits. He has customers as far as Nairobi and Mombasa who give orders for the products.
Sometimes he visits the organic farmers market in Nairobi, where he gets to sell his products. Additionally, he trains other farmers how to grow hibiscus and moringa and how to use them to get income.
Moringa leaf powder
The leaves after harvest should be stripped off the stems, washed, and dried in a shade (sunlight can destroy vitamin A). The dried leaves are made into a fine powder using a grinder and stored in an air-tight container. Vitamin A retention is enhanced if the leaves are blanched before drying. As a nutritional additive, two or three spoonfuls of the powder can be added to soups or sauces or put it in hot water and drink directly. Moringa leaf powder can be stored for up to six months when protected from light and humidity.
150 grams sells at Sh370. The powder can also be made into tablets and capsules. This is for direct intake as a supplement.
Fresh leaves are crushed and pounded in a mortar with a small amount of water.
For larger production, a hammer mill is used to pound young moringa shoots (not more than 40 days old) together with little water (about one litre per 10kg of fresh material). Then it is filtered and diluted with water and sugar is added for taste.
Alternatively, a spoonful of more moringa leaf powder can be added to a litre of water. Then stirred together, strained and sugar is added. Juice or juice concentrate is stored in a refrigerator. In the market, 300ml is sold at Sh700.
Moringa oil or Ben oil is obtained by pressing the seeds. The oil content of de-hulled seed (kernel) is about 42 per cent, which is yellow in colour. It can be used as a lubricant for fine machinery, it is also useful as a vegetable cooking oil.
The free fatty acid content varies from 0.5 to three per cent. Indian Ayurveda claims that moringa oil also possesses antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine, particularly in South Asia.
Moringa oil has tremendous cosmetic value and is used in body and hair care.
Moringa oil has been used in skin preparations and ointments. It has nourishing and emollient properties, making it an excellent massage oil due to the presence of palmitoleic, oleic, and linoleic acids, vitamins A and C and unsaturated fatty acid. 120ml goes for Sh750.
Moringa flavoured tea
Moringa can be flavoured and packaged into tea bags for intake. Common flavours are strawberry and peppermint flavoured tea bags. You can consider including some tea(chai) in the blend or pure moringa with the peppermint or strawberry blend.
Moringa seed cake
Moringa seed cake, also known as moringa oil cake is a byproduct of oil extraction from Moringa seeds. It is used as an organic fertiliser and as a natural water purification agent. Moringa seed cake is rich in Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, and Nickel. This helps improve soil fertility when used as a fertiliser.
Moringa farmers can place beehives on their moringa plantations. Honey produced by bees that get nectar from moringa flowers is known to have medicinal properties that are associated with moringa.
Soups and shakes
Moringa can be mixed with other soup and shakes ingredients to create instant highly nutritious drinks.
The moringa tree has been called the “horseradish tree” because a similar-tasting condiment can be made from its pungent roots. Even when the plant is only 60 cm tall, it can be pulled up and the roots harvested.
The roots from young plants can also be dried and ground for use as a hot seasoning base with a flavour similar to horse radish.
A tasty hot sauce from the roots can also be prepared by cooking them in vinegar. The root bark (which contains two alkaloids as well as the toxic moringinine) must be scraped off. The interior flesh is pounded, then mixed with salt and vinegar.
However, it can be dangerous to consume the roots too often or in large amounts. Even when toxic root bark is removed, the flesh has been found to contain the alkaloid spirochin, a nerve paralysant.
Other products include Moringa Chips, Moringa Kernel Pepper Fry, Moringa bark oil, Moringa dhal, Moringa shampoo, Moringa soap, Moringa face cream, and Moringa soup mix.