Drumstick Tree

Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree of the family Moringaceae, native to the Indian subcontinent. Common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree, and ben oil tree or benzolive tree. The nutritional benefits of the plant and its leaves are widespread, as it is extremely high in protein, vitamin A,B1,C along with high content of calcium, and iron.



Drumstick is an easily available vegetable which is cultivated mostly in Asian and African regions. It is a staple vegetable in Southern India and is also widely consumed in other states. It is also used for water purification. Moringa tree can be grown as specimen trees or a thick hedge.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

10–12 m (32–40 ft)


Width-Circumference (Avg)

The trunk of the tree can reach a diameter of up to 45 cm (1.5ft)


Approximate pH

5.0 – 9.0


Different Varieties of Drumstick Tree


Several local tree cultivars are known by the place of their cultivation,. Details of local cultivars are given:


  • Jaffna is a perennial type which bares 60-90 cm long podswith soft flesh and good taste.

  • Chemmurungai is a perennial type flower throughout the year and bears red-tipped fruits.

  • Yazhpanam same as Jaffna type.

  • Kodikkal murungai is a perennial ecotype grown predominantly in the betel vine growing areas of the Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu. The trees are short statured with small leaves.

  • Punamurungai is a perennial ecotype grown in home gardens of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. It is preferred for its thick pulp and taste but other references describe it as bitter and the variety unpopular.

  • Palmurungai is a perennial ecotype preferred for its thick pulp and taste but other references describe it as bitter and the variety unpopular.


Varieties of Moringa oleifera


Most cultivars of this species have been developed for improved production of drumsticks, also referred to as pods or fruit. Few cultivars have apparently been specifically developed for leaf production although seeds for unnamed large leaved varieties are available.


Moringa varieties may be broadly classified into two groups: perennial and annual.


Perennial types have probably been in cultivation for thousands of years. In India perennial types are typically propagated from cuttings. These types have several characteristics that have constrained their use for in commercial production, and favored development and cultivation of annual varieties: long growing time before reaching maturity for production of pods, limited availability of suitable planting materials (stem cuttings), less resistance to pests and diseases and greater rainfall requirements. They may be unsuited for areas with short growing seasons or shortages of water.


Annual types such as Periyakulam-1 (PKM-1) and PKM-2, are largely the products of recent plant breeding research and have now replaced most the perennial varieities that previously dominated commercial production in India. They are seed propagated, offer rapid maturation, higher yields and greater adaptability to varied soil and climatic conditions1.


Annual types may have significant variation in some cultural characteristics. The number of flowers per inflorescence (19.0-126.0), fruit weight (25.0-231.5g) and yield by number of fruit per plant (1.0-155.0), showed widest variability.


Disadvantages of annual types compared with perennial types may include shorter lifespans, requirements for more frequent replanting and reduced genetic diversity.


Named Varieties of Drumstick Trees From India


  • Anupama is a drumstick production variety released from KAU, India.

  • Coimbatore 1 is widely available in India and considered superior for drumstick production and quality. Drumsticks are from 45-60cm long with two harvests per year. Tree yield product for eight to ten years.

  • Coimbatore 2 is a more popular variety than Combiatore 1 in Tamil Nadu with shorter drumsticks (25-35cm long). A high yielding drumstick production variety with bulky pods. Production life from three to four years.

  • Kadumurungai (Kadu) is a perennial wild ecotype producing small inferior quality pods.

  • Murunga is a perennial ecotype cultivated by farmers in Tamil Nadu and the trees can be maintained upto 15 years without pruning.

  • Valayapatti is a perennial ecotype cultivated in and around Usilampatti and Andipatti. It yields 1000-1200 pods per tree.


Planting Drumstick Trees


Growing moringa trees is easier. Whether using moringa seeds or cuttings, the trees grow and mature quickly.



When To Plant


However, the trees shouldn’t be planted in the colder months, when the temperature is below 50 degrees. The seeds retain the ability to germinate for an entire year provided that the soil mixture is warm. The ideal temperature for germination is between 77-95 degrees F (25-35 degrees C).


Where To Plant


Moringa trees can be grown in the ground, but are often started in containers. It’s important to protect young plants and saplings from harsh winds and stormy weather. Can use wind barriers around the plants that comprise heavy bags of rocks, potting soil, and sand.


Moringa trees have a deep taproot system, which means they need lots of space to stretch out their roots in the soil. The trees generally prefer loamy or sandy soils with a neutral pH. They will need to have full sun exposure year-round, so be sure to provide that.

Since the plant is native to subtropical and semi-arid regions, it can only tolerate light frost. Regular weather below 45 degrees Fahrenheit can be detrimental to the trees.


How To Plant


When planting a young moringa tree sapling, it will need to be sure to prepare your soil in advance. Dig out and loosen a 3-4 foot hole, at least 2 feet deep and preferably 3 feet.


This allows that to confirm that there isn’t heavy clay soil below the soil’s surface.

If wish to amend the soil, this is a good time to do it. Adding one part sand to one part compost and then mixing the combination in with the soil should ensure good drainage. If the soil is already sandy, just blend in some compost on its own.


Drumstick Care


Sun and Temperature


Moringa needs a bare minimum of 6 hours of daily sunlight, but prefers full sun conditions year-round. As a subtropical beauty, it’s accustomed to warm weather conditions.


Although the plant can tolerate light frost, it shouldn’t be planted in areas with long, cold winters. Short periods at 45 degrees Fahrenheit are fine, as long as it warms up during the daytime. It can tolerate hot spells quite well.


Watering and Humidity


While they’re drought-resistant once well established, moringa still needs water to survive. It’s accustomed to high air moisture of the sort typically found in jungles, and in humid areas it will thrive. But it still need to water consistently. Watering deeply is better than a quick shallow watering at the tree’s base. It can do this with a soaker hose, and the gradual dripping of moisture into the soil will fully hydrate it. Otherwise, water at least once a week when it’s not raining, and increase watering frequency as the heat goes up.


Saplings will need more water than established trees. Keep the soil moist around them by watering every 2-3 days.


Soil


Moringa trees prefer loose loamy or sandy soils as these types offer the best conditions for the root to develop deeply into the ground or potting mix. Loose soil will also ensure good drainage. Although the trees can survive in poor soil or clay soil, it’s best to stick to loamy.


Growing moringa requires enriched soil, which is why you should add compost or manure every now and then. Spread a 2-3” layer of compost around the base of the tree to the width of the tree’s canopy. The plants work best in slightly acidic or neutral soils that have a pH between 6.5-7.5.


Fertilizing


If regularly applying a 3” layer of compost around the tree, it won’t need a separate fertilizer. Both cow manure and horse manure are acceptable alternatives.


If compost or manure not added it may very well discover that your tree still performs just fine without it. As its roots delve deep under the surface, it’ll find pockets of material from which to feed itself. Still, an annual application of a slow-release all-purpose granular fertilizer won’t hurt in the early spring.


Pruning


Pruning moringa trees is an absolute necessity. These exuberant trees grow like wildfire, and you may discover you have a lot of extra work on your hands! A good sturdy pair of loppers will help.


Remove branches to open up the tree’s canopy and to prevent criss-crossing of branch wood. This allows for healthy leaf development. Damaged branches should also be removed.


Prune as necessary to maintain the tree at the size you want it to be. If it’s not maintained, it will rapidly soar to rather significant heights, making pruning a challenge! Most of the major pruning happens once flowering has concluded so as to enjoy those beautiful blooms.


Propagation


Moringa can be propagated from both seed pods and cuttings.


If planting moringa from seeds, germination can take up to 3-14 days. They will ideally sprout in a warm temperature between 70-90 degrees F. The best way to plant them is to start in small pots and transplant them in the ground once the seeds begin to sprout.


It can soak the seeds in water for a few days or plant them directly in containers. To do this, simply take a small pot and fill it up with organic potting soil. Plant the seeds at least 1 inch deep and keep the pot in a warm, sunny spot.


Water it daily until the seed sprouts. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged as the seedlings can drown when there’s excess water. It will take a few days for the seeds to grow into young plants. Once they’re 8-10 inches tall, transfer them to a larger pot or the ground.


If doing a post-flowering pruning, you can also select a healthy, long branch to propagate. The branch should be at least 1” in diameter and can be up to six feet in length. Dig a hole that’s at least 3 feet deep and wide and amend the soil. Place the wider end of the branch down deep into the hole, and backfill and tamp it down. It will develop roots if the soil is kept moist.


Harvesting and Storing


Harvesting


One of the best things about pruning your moringa is that able to more easily harvest an abundance of leaves all at once. These leaves are nutrient-dense and are used to produce moringa powder, but it takes a lot of leaves to make that powder.


Wash the branches thoroughly with water once cut them. Some advocate washing them with a saline solution and then rinsing them as well. Tie bundles of the branches together at their base, and place them somewhere where the leaves can dry out. Drying should only take a few days, and as the leaves dry, it can pull them easily off the tree with hands.


Can also harvest the leaves fresh for use in salads or as a green vegetable. Use sterilized pruning shears to snip off clusters of healthy leaves for this use.

Moringa pods can be harvested for fresh eating when they’re about six inches in length. At this young, undeveloped size, the entire pod is edible as are the immature seeds within. These are often cooked like string beans.

Mature pods can be harvested at full size. At this point, the pod is no longer edible, but the seeds within can be pressed to extract moringa oil. The seeds can also be cooked and eaten, but not until they’ve been stripped from the interior of the pod and rinsed well. A quick blanching of the seeds will remove the sticky film, and then they can be cooked in similar ways to peas or fresh beans.


Dried pods can also be harvested, but once the seeds inside are harvested and blanched, they will need to be cooked as if they were dry beans.


Storing


Fresh leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. If leave them on their stems and set the stems in a glass of water, they will stay almost as fresh as they would be if just harvested. Change the water daily until use them. Strip them from their stems just prior to use.


Dried moringa leaves can be crushed into a powder that can be stored up to a year if kept dry. Keep the powder in an airtight container with a moisture absorbing packet. Be sure to keep the powder in a dark cabinet to prevent it from losing its flavor.


Young pods can be frozen whole as long as they’re 6 inches or smaller. Once thawed, cook them as it would green beans.


If the seeds are kept completely dry, moringa seeds can last virtually forever. At the first introduction of moisture, they’ll try to sprout, so keep them in a dry, dark location!


Pests and Diseases


Luckily, moringa plants are resistant to many different pests and diseases, however, termites can still be an issue with established moringa trees.


Pests


Noctuidae species, particularly the armyworm or cutworm, are problematic for moringa. So too are an assortment of caterpillars. All of these can be eliminated by using a bacillus thurigiensis spray on your tree.


Some forms of stem borer are also a potential problem. The adult beetle will lay its eggs on a healthy twig. Once hatched, the larvae bore into the stem and eat the center. Leaves will yellow and the branch will die. Cut off impacted branches well below the damaged portion and burn them or destroy them rather than composting. Regular pruning can reduce stem borer damage.


Aphids are an opportunistic pest that will suck the sap out of leaves. To keep aphids at bay, regular spraying with either neem oil or horticultural oil will reduce their numbers. Small quantities may be able to be sprayed off with a hard water spray.


Fruit flies may be attracted to the flowers and seed pods. Yellow sticky traps will help identify this annoyance. Keep the area around the tree free of debris and harvest young pods promptly to prevent them from sticking around.


In limited amounts, termites may become an issue. Termite damage can be professionally treated to kill off the burrowing pests. Depending on how severe the damage is, the tree may be able to be saved.


Diseases


Root Rot: This is by far the most common issue with moringa trees. If the plant is not situated in soil that drains at the rate of 1-inch per hour at minimum, a heavy rain could saturate the soil and the tree could die from root rot in a matter of days. Once root rot is found, it is likely too late to save the plant, so the best course of action here is to ensure proper soil drainage when the tree is first put in the ground.


Fruit and/or Twig Rot: While less common than root rot, keep an eye out for fruit and/or twig rot in which a fungus turns the seed pods or twigs a brownish color. Both conditions can be treated with a copper-based fungicide.


Canker: While even less common, some types of canker can appear on moringa trunks and branches. If you notice this condition that appears like a wound on the tree, be sure to prune off damaged limbs or branches. Also if canker does appear, be sure not to prune your moringa too heavily in rainy periods as it could help spread bacteria to other parts of the tree.


Benefits of Drumstick Trees


Drumstick is one of those rare plant species whose seeds, flowers, leaves, and stems are edible and extremely nutritious. Moringa commonly referred to as drumstick is treated as a ‘super plant’ for its unique yet powerful properties that combat different ailments in our system.


Great for diabetes


The various vitamins and minerals present in drumstick stem help in maintaining an optimum blood-glucose level and hence it is highly recommended for people with diabetes.


Fights pimple


Moringa is known for preventing acne and other skin issues. It is a blood purifier which helps in flushing out all the impurities present in your blood.


Good for hair and skin


It is rich in vitamin B, vitamin A, folic acid and other essential nutrients which will help you in achieving a flawless skin and lustrous hair.


Prevents the outburst of chickenpox


Moringa is mostly advised to consume during the month of March- April, as due to its medical properties it can provide immunity against chicken pox.


Keeps your heart healthy


If you are someone who is having an elevated blood-pressure level then a regular intake of this super-powerful vegetable can help in keeping heart diseases at bay.


Stronger bones


Consumption of drumstick has also proven results in improving bone health due to the presence of an adequate amount of calcium and iron.


Helps During Pregnancy and Lactation


Drumsticks are a powerhouse of nutrients. They contain vitamins like A, B, C and K. They also contain minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron. Furthermore, they are a great source of dietary fibre and protein. All these nutrients are essential during pregnancy.


Adding drumsticks to the meals can help with morning sickness and improve energy. The fibre content helps with constipation, which is common during pregnancy. Additionally, the folate content in drumsticks will help prevent congenital disabilities. Studies suggest that it helps reduce the risk of spina bifida, a neural defect in newborns. Furthermore, a blend of moringa leaves juice is helpful to mothers after delivery because it helps improve the secretion of breast milk.


Improves Vision


Drumsticks are a rich source of vitamin A. As a result, they aid in promoting eye health. You can use vitamin A in conditions like cataracts and dry eyes. Several studies reveal that these nutrients prevent several diseases, particularly age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. They also reduce the thickening of capillary membranes. Furthermore, they can help avoid eye dysfunction.


Acts as an Aphrodisiac


Drumsticks act as an aphrodisiac as they have antioxidant properties, which can help in reducing oxidative stress. As a result, they reduce overall stress levels in the body. In addition, antioxidants in drumsticks improve dopamine secretion. Dopamine enhances sexual function, especially in men. They may also improve sperm count and motility.


Uses

  • The stems of moringa plant are mostly used in Indian kitchens to prepare scrumptious delicacies.

  • It is also used for water purification.

  • Tender moringa leaves, finely chopped, are used as garnish for vegetable dishes and salads.

  • It is also used in place of or along with coriander.

  • Moringa leaf powder is valued as a dietary supplement and may be used to enrich food products ranging from dairy, such as yogurt and cheese, to baked goods, such as bread and pastries, with acceptable sensory evaluation.

  • The edible seed oil may be used in condiments or dressings.

  • It may be used as forage for livestock, a micronutrient liquid, a natural anthelmintic, and possible adjuvant.

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