This is the point when I announce that Sarah was right. Sort of.
Maracuja is passion fruit. Moringa does exist, but is something else entirely.
Mupwa told me all about the amazing benefits of the magical moringa. It helps children who do not have enough to eat. It gives weak people energy. It is a weed but more precious than medicine. He should sell the stuff. (This was followed with a lesson on how to use papaya tree roots to treat hemorrhoids. I spare you the details.) The whole time, I was picturing this:
When I should have been picturing this:
Then, I came home the other day and found my porch table covered with those massive amounts of leafy branches. Mama Vida said her husband was sick, so she was going to dry these leaves and make a moringa tea for him.
Hold the phone!
I went looking for some solid research on this moringa business and found loads of "SUPER BODY IMMUNE HEALTHY POWER MIRACLE" links. Many internet businesses trying to sell the mystical power of moringa. So I reasoned that if Mama Vida, Mupwa, and make-a-quick-buck-on-gullible/desperate-new-age internet folks all have interest in this plan, there must be some truth there.
Pub Med seems to agree with the hype:
Moringa oleifera Lam (Moringaceae) is a highly valued plant, distributed in many countries of the tropics and subtropics. It has an impressive range of medicinal uses with high nutritional value. Different parts of this plant contain a profile of important minerals, and are a good source of protein, vitamins, beta-carotene, amino acids and various phenolics. The Moringa plant provides a rich and rare combination of zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol. In addition to its compelling water purifying powers and high nutritional value, M. oleifera is very important for its medicinal value. Various parts of this plant such as the leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, antiinflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine, particularly in South Asia.There are a handful of NGOs who base their work on encouraging malnourished populations to plant and consume the moringa plant. The nutritional information is quite convincing:
For a child aged 1-3, a 100g serving of fresh cooked leaves would provide all his daily requirements of calcium, about 75% of his iron needs, as well as important amounts of potassium, B vitamins, copper and all the essential amino acids.
But, it's a bit hard to find hard evidence that isn't glossified and packaged. This is a very interesting little discussion about why the benefits haven't "made it big" in the NGO world.
At any rate, Mupwa doesn't care if moringa has "made it big" - he believes that it works. Mama Vida doesn't care if the nutritional facts are sound, she is happy to have a free way to give her husband "medicine" when he's ill. And, I am a firm believer that if many people "know" something, there must be a grain of truth in there somewhere. Or, if not truth, iron, potassium, and calcium...