Moringa is the only genus in the family Moringaceae. This genus comprises 13 species, all of which are trees that grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates. The taxon name moringa comes from the Tamil/Malayalam word murungakkAi. In Gujarati it is called Saragvo.
The most popular species is Moringa oleifera, a multi-purpose tree originally from Tamil Nadu/Kerala state of India, which is what is commonly referred when the name Moringa is used. This variety is cultivated throughout the tropics. The African variety Moringa stenopetala, is also widely grown, but to a much lesser extent than Moringa oleifera.
According to TreesForLife.org, moringa trees have great potential in combatting extreme poverty and hunger. The nutritious leaves grow quickly, in many different environment types, and can feed people, as well as livestock and sanctuary animals. Surprisingly, the leaves contain complete proteins, which is rare for a plant. And in many developing countries, Moringa is used as a micronutrient powder to aid indigenous diseases.
According to Dr. K. Shaine Tyson of Rocky Mountain Biodiesel Consulting, the defatted meal contains 60% protein, 40% more than soy meal. The high protein leaves can be used as animal fodder and together with the defatted meals, have been shown to increase weight gain in animals by 32% and milk production by 42-55%. The defatted meal can also be used to purify water, settling out sediments and organisms.
Moringa can also provide oil for making biofuels. The seeds contain 30-50% oil, or 112-185 gal/acre/year. The oil contains 65-75% oleic acids and, unlike Jatropha oil, is beneficial for both humans and fuel.
Moringa is drought resistant and can be grown in a wide variety of poor soils, even barren ground, with soil pH between 4.5 and 9.0. The Moringa Oleifera species is said to have originated in the Himalayas, but although the current cultivars can withstand frost, they do not generally survive a hard freeze. It could probably be grown wherever oranges grow successfully.
Moringa holds promise as a sustainable crop which can benefit humans and animals nutritionally, economically and as an energy source.