Have you heard of a drumstick plant (Moringa tree)? If you haven’t, now is definitely the time to look into it! Moringa is the newest craze, taking the health world by storm. This amazing tree is chock-full of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Moringa is a healing powerhouse, beating out kale and blueberries as a tasty superfood. It’s an anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory plant that has been known as a miracle-working herbal healer for centuries.
If those claims sound too good to be true, just put them to the test. Moringa loves outshining other superfoods. One of the best ways to explore the health benefits of this gorgeous drumstick plant, is by growing one. With a little tree in your yard or living room, you can get to know this healing plant thoroughly. In addition, you may discover that moringa’s miracle-working reputation is well-earned.
What is a Drumstick Plant/Moringa Tree?
Moringa oleifera is a slender, fast-growing, deciduous tree native to India. If given free rein, they can grow over 40 feet tall. In contrast, in a garden or pot, they’re not likely to grow over 10 feet. Every part of the moringa tree is edible, but the leaves and pods are the most commonly consumed parts
It’s also known as the drumstick plant, as well as the miracle tree, and the tree of life. The latter two nicknames come from its healing properties, but the drumstick plant got its nickname because of the shape of its pods.
These trees are hardy in zones 9 and 10. Below that, you’ll want to grow your your plant in a pot indoors. Even in zone 9, growing in a pot is a good idea, as this plant hates frost. So start out with a large, wide pot, filled with loose, moderate soil, and some moringa seeds. Let’s get started!
Do you have a generous friend nearby with a healthy drumstick plant to take cuttings from? If not, you’ll want to start your tree from seed.
The ideal temperatures for starting moringa seeds range from 77-95 degrees. If you’re house or yard isn’t quite that steamy, try setting your pot on a warming tray or in a bright, summer greenhouse.
Soak your drumstick plant seeds for about 24 hours in tepid water. They’ll soak up as much water as they need, then you can drain them and pat them try with a soft towel.
Plant seeds about an inch deep in the soil. You can plant up to 7 dwarf moringa trees in one large pot. Germination time ranges from 3 days to 14 days, so don’t get discouraged if your seeds are a little on the slow side.
Make sure your seedlings get a lot of direct sunlight. Try moving your pot to follow the sun, or putting them in a greenhouse. If you’re living in a particularly hot zone, however, give your young plants a break from searing sunshine by offering shade around noon/early afternoon.
As an adult, this miracle tree is very drought-hardy. In contrast, you need to give your seedlings an easy start in life by watering them daily or every other day. The roots shouldn’t stay soaking wet, but they can stay moist.
Once you have a pot full of healthy, growing seedlings, it’s time to consider spacing them. If they’re in a 12-15 inch pot, you can keep 2 or 3 plants growing for a quite a while. Right now, just thin out the rest. Try gently transplanting them into pots of their own.
As your plants continue to grow, you’ll want to prune back a few of the branches. When your young moringas have at least 2 layers of branches: above and below, cut the tops of the seedlings. Then, cut the branches back to about half their length.
Keep an eye on your young trees as they grow. New leaves may pop out on the top of the plant, and at the fork of the branches. You should prune these leaves as well.
The point is to keep your young, potted moringa small and manageable. All this pruning also helps encourage lush leaf growth. The leaves are the drumstick plant’s most popular edible parts, so the more leaves, the better.
Apart from regular pruning and consistent watering, this is a low-key houseplant. During hot, summer days, let the moringa soak up the sunlight and fresh air. In the winter, keep it cozy near a sunny, south-facing window.
You can mulch the plant with your clippings as you prune. Chop the branches and leaves up small and scatter them under the tree for a natural boost to your little tree.
Apart from that, you’ll rarely—if ever—need to add any fertilizer. If your drumstick plant starts looking peaked, a bit of well-composted manure can be added to the pot.
Moringa is a naturally low-pest plant. For some reason, destructive insects don’t really like the drumstick plant. Occasionally, moringa trees can suffer from termite damage though. If you start to notice termites making a home for themselves on your miracle tree, try mulching around it with castor leaves.
The castor leaves should kill or repel the termites and keep your drumstick plant safe.
Harvesting Leaves and Pods
Most people who grow moringa do so for the leaves and the pods. In fact, moringa leaves are a delicious addition to meals and a nutritious boost to smoothies and herbal remedies.
Pull mature leaves off of moringa branches in a gentle stripping motion. Make sure the leaves are dry, otherwise they’ll stick to your hands (and everything else). After stripping the leaves, you can prune the branches.
You can also gently strip the leaves from pruned branches. Harvesting from pruned branches is a great way to avoid overharvesting. Moringa leaves are delicious, and you can forget to be gentle with your young moringa tree sometimes. Limiting your harvesting to pruned branches will keep you from draining your tree’s resources.
Using Moringa Leaves
You can use moringa leave fresh or dehydrate them for later use. If you’re using the fresh leaves, store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. You can sprinkle them on top of curry dishes, add them to soups at the very end of cooking.
Try adding raw moringa leaves to salads and smoothies. They’re a delicious addition to sandwiches. Tuck them between roasted red peppers, red onions, and roasted sweet potatoes for a fabulous vegan panini. As an added bonus, drumstick plant leaves are also safe foods for many pets! Do your research first, of course, as it’s healthier for some pets than for others.
Harvesting and Using Moringa Seed Pods
The seed pods are a less consistent crop. Harvest them when they’re young and tender: just pluck them from the branches and eat them like green beans. You can steam them, sautee them, or eat them raw. These pods are a flavorful and nutrient dense addition to salads, stir-fries, and stews. Just remember to save a few of these pods for future seed planting!
Popular wisdom around moringas encourages a quick turnover for seeds. Ideally, plant them within three months of harvesting. But if you have older seeds that have been stored well, give them a try. Many moringa growers have had successful germination from seeds up to 3 years old. It’s best to store the seeds in an airtight, sealed container. Keep them dry, and store them at room temperature.
When harvesting seeds for storage, discard any that are chipped or broken. Select healthy looking, whole seeds.
Never freeze or refrigerate your drumstick plant seeds. These are tropical plants, after all, so they’ll die if you chill them. Keep them at a comfortable temperature and use them soon after harvesting for the best germination results.
Drumstick Plant Medicinal Uses
Seeds are a great, simple way to get the medicinal benefits of the drumstick plant. While you can easily add the leaves to healthy smoothies, fresh or dried, moringa seeds have a reputation as the best part of the plant for medicinal purposes. They’re healthy nuggets of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, moringa seeds offer hearty doses of common, essential vitamins and a heaping helping of protein.
This really is a miracle plant when it comes to healing what ails you. From low energy to insomnia; diabetes to asthma, it’s a fabulous adaptogen to help balance your body.
How To Take Moringa Medicinally
Medicinal moringa users take their seeds in one of two ways. You can either chew the seeds up or swallow them whole. Most people like to sip some fresh spring water afterwards. Eat something before taking your moringa seeds too.
You should start with just two seeds a day and then increase or decrease depending on your body’s needs. Give your body a week-long break from it every 10 days or so.
Warning: never use moringa medicinally if you’re pregnant or hoping to become pregnant.
The Tree of Life
It’s easy to see why moringa has been a part of life and healing for centuries. This tree is a veritable treasure trove of flavor and nutrients. It’s a great addition to any indoor medicine garden!