Moringa (Moringa oleifera)

All trees are seedlings. Source seeds from many (Trade Winds Fruit, Jake Mace, etc.)

I debated whether to put this tree in the 'Canopy Tree' section or the 'Medicinal Plants' section. I decided canopy trees, because I had 12 of them in my back yard at one point (currently at 10) because I use them as fast growing shade structures. I harvest food off many of them, but really one tree produces more than enough food for us. This is easily the most useful tree in my yard:

Moringa as food
Moringa is called the 'drumstick tree' or the 'horseradish tree'. The amount of nutrition packed into moringa (pound for pound compared to other common foods) is pretty astounding. Do a quick google search and you will see what I mean. I primarily eat the leaves. They are moderately spicy, much like arugula. If you cook the leaves even slightly, they lose a lot of their spiciness. I also like to eat the flowers (moringa flowers *prolifically*) which are both sweet from the nectar and spicy. The pods are also edible and have powerful cleansing agents (can be used to purify water).

Moringa as canopy trees
In my yard (no exaggeration) moringa seeds planted in the spring are 6-10 ft tall trees in the first year, and 15-25 ft trees in the second year. These grow at incredible rates in the AZ summer. I like to plant moringas on the west side of my yard and on the west side of more sensitive trees. They provide fast growing canopy. In many ways they are ideal, because the canopy is not thick on moringa. It acts much more like 40-50% shade cloth rather than 70-80% shade cloth for trees under it. So it gives and understory tree protection, but still enough light to grow. The beauty is that because these moringas are seedlings, when they outlive their usefulness (the protected trees become established) you just chop it down and turn it into mulch.

Moringa as mulch
Because moringa grows so fast I top them in the spring to keep them from getting too out of hand. I clip the ends for 'chop-and-drop' green mulch. And I run the branches through my chipper to make woody mulch. Moringa wood is soft and fibrous, and breaks down very quickly.

trunk of a 2 year old moringa seedling

March, Canopy after a spring pruning

May, flushing out growth and flowering

Moringa logs after pruning and culling unneeded trees