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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
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Moringa oleifera Lam.

Moringaceae

syn: M. pterygosperma Gaertn.

English: ben oil tree, horseradish tree, moringo, drumstick tree Swahili: mrongo, mzunz.e Chonyi: muzungwi Daasanach: hocholoch Giriama: muzungi, muzumbwi, muzungwi Kambe: muzungwi Tharaka: muguunda Sanya: muzungwa

Description: A usually deciduous tree 4-6 m or higher, roots tuberous, bark whitish grey, wood soft and branches drooping. Capsules to 30 cm or more, splitting into three valves. Seeds brown, 3-winged.

Ecology: This species is native to northern India but it is cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in arid areas. It is a very drought-resistant and valuable tree, grown at the coast, Makindu and drier parts of the country. Prefers sandy soils. 0-1,450 m. Zones III-VI.

Uses: FOOD: The leaves of the horseradish tree are used as a vegetable (Mijikenda) while the tender young capsules (drumsticks) are a delicacy, especially among the Asian community. An oil may be extracted from the seeds. Immature seeds can be used like green peas. Planted by the Mijikenda who use the leaves as a vegetable. Normally mixed with other vegetables. Leaves have a slight odour. To prepare the vegetable, remove the small leaflets from the main branch by pressing on the branchlet between the fingers and pulling. Mix the leaves with cowpea leaves (tsafe), kimbiri (Oxygonum salicifolium), kiswenya (Amaranthus dubius) and talakushe (Asystasia gangetica). Kiswenya and tsafe are normally cut into small pieces. Boil, add salt and serve. The vegetable may also be fried (Mijikenda). Cooking is normally brief.

MEDICINAL: The plant is said to cure impotence (Tharaka).

OTHER: Seeds are used in water purification.

Management: M. oleifera Lam. is propagated by large stem cuttings, by seeds and also roots. Germination from seeds ranges from a few days to 2 weeks. It is often used as a living fence in coastal homesteads.

Remarks: Root bark contains poisonous alkaloids, so care should be taken in its use as food and medicine. It is said to cause dizziness (kisuzi, Mijikenda).

A related indigenous species is M. stenopetala (Bak. f.) Cuf. (Daasanach: hocholoch, English: horseradish tree, Somali: mawa (Mandera), mrongo, Tharaka: muguunda). Description: Tree up to 9 m with smooth bark and soft branches. LEAVES: Compound, 2-3 pinnate, alternate. FLOWERS: Parts in fives, sweet-scented, white, numerous in lax inflorescences. FRUIT: Long, pod-like, reddish with a grey bloom, dehiscing to release seeds that are 3-winged. Ecology: Found in Ethiopia and Kenya. In Kenya, e.g. in Baringo, Marsabit and Turkana. Riverine, especially in sandy areas with a high water-table. Zones V-VI.

Uses: FOOD: It is thought that this species, like its relative M. oleifera, may have potential as a food plant. The pod-like fruits and the leaves may be used as a vegetable. Reportedly used as a vegetable in Mandera and in Ethiopia by the Konso. Seeds are used for purifying muddy water (Somali).

MEDICINAL: Roots are medicine for stomach-ache and infertility (Somali, Mandera).


Moringa stenopetala


Figure