Sit back and be prepared to be educated. We had to be.
Nine months ago, we were introduced to the little-known properties of one of the latest ‘super-foods’ to enter the global food chain. When our daughter, Rachael, announced to us via Skype (as we sat in our hotel room in Amsterdam during a city-break), that she and her partner, Jonathan, were going to leave Mexico to return to Spain, with the intention of settling and acquiring a few hectares of land to plant something called ‘Moringa’. It was a ‘jaw-dropping’ moment for both of us. Why?
Well, like most people, we had never even heard of the plant. Even an expert botanist friend of ours had only just heard of it, but couldn’t tell us much more about it. Into the small hours that night, we researched it on the internet, discovered that it originates in India, can only be grown in tightly defined sub-tropical areas with ready access to irrigation, and must be planted on well-drained terrain. Rachael and Jonathan, with the help of Jonathan’s parents (both Colombians, by the way) experimented with a few trial plants and found that parts of Andalucía in the south of Spain would provide the ideal environment………all of which led to the kick-starting of an adventure into the unknown.
Having acquired the lease of three hectares of barren uncultivated land, they ‘whipped’ the terrain into submission, ploughed, fed and watered it in preparation for over 1000 delicate little saplings which, in the last six months, have grown at a pace, but their first harvest will be to capture the seeds from the pods to plant the next generation, extend their holding, then to harvest the leaves the following year for the market………and to make some money, we hope.
Moringa is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree, native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas, where the seed pods and leaves are used extensively as vegetables. The most nutritious part of the plant is the leaves, rich in vitamins A, B, C and K, with high levels of manganese and calcium. So complete a food, in fact, that in poorer parts of Asia it is a vital constituent of their diet. For the western market, however, where people are mostly well fed, it is promoted more as a supplement that can be taken in addition to the normal diet in the form of teas, pills or powders. Go into your local health-food store and you will find many products that include moringa on their list of ingredients.
It has been a leap into the unknown for these newcomers to the world of horticulture, but they are doing their ‘homework’, dealing with the inevitable problems of working with vagaries of nature, and looking to the future with optimism.
And since the ‘banks of Mum and Dad’ on both sides happen to be significant investors in this pioneering venture, we look on their joys, trials and tribulations with more than just a little curiosity, and find ourselves periodically shouting………. ¡Viva la Moringa!