It seems that every day we learn about another ancient grain, or a new (to us) food that may hold the secrets to health, longevity and sustainability. In this piece – written by Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) for Grist – the author introduces us to moringa, which might really be the next big thing…for a lot of reasons.

Other work we’ve shared by Johnson includes: The Johnny Appleseed of no-till farming; Farmers are growing more vegetables, but we’re not eating them; and The GMO controversy misses the point.


Johnson writes:


“The thing is, moringa is different. If it becomes an obsession for rich, toned, hyper-vigilant Westerners, it wouldn’t be just another annoying fad. It would actually help the people who really do have to pay close attention to what they eat — because they are in danger of suffering malnourishment. It would provide money and nutrition to people in poverty. And it might just make Westerners a little healthier. And, yeah, it would also probably be an annoying fad (but I could live with that).”


What is moringa, anyway? Where does it grow? Nutritional data?


“And the thing is, moringa really is an amazingly nutritious plant. It’s a tree that grows like a weed throughout the tropics, all around the world. The leaves are packed with vitamins, potassium, calcium (way more than milk), and iron. They provide nine times the protein as an equivalent serving of yogurt. Moringa has been used in several cultures as a form of medicine, and there is some evidence that it may have some anti–bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. Fidel Castro credited his recovery from sickness, a few years back, to moringa. Basically, it’s supposed to cure everything.”


And the other great thing about moringa? The potential for the business models it inspires to do good. Lisa Curtis was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Niger when she learned about moringa; now she’s betting she can persuade American consumers that the plant is healthy, nutritious and tasty.

Curtis has started a business called Kuli Kuli to create a market for moringa among western consumers. Kuli Kuli sells bars made with the plant: think energy bars. Kuli Kuli products are available at about 300 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods. Curtis “pays about 30 percent over the market rate for moringa to ensure that the farmers get a fair wage and that the company has a stable, high-quality supply.”

An absolutely fantastic piece.


Related Links:

An ancient grain: Palestinians rediscover freekeh

The rise of Africa’s “super vegetables”

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