The horseradish tree ( Moringa oleifera) from northern India is high in vitamins and minerals and almost entirely edible. The immature seedpods can be cooked like green beans, the leaves like spinach and the roots like horseradish. The flowers, seeds and bark also have therapeutic value. The leaves are rich in protein and calcium as well as other minerals and vitamins.
An extract of moringa leaves and root was traditionally used as a heart tonic and has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, or hardening of the arteries. Toasted moringa leaves are a traditional remedy for hyperglycemia, regulating blood sugar levels. The plant also has anti-cancer properties; antioxidants it contains target the free radicals that trigger cancerous growths.
Moringa has become popular as a leaf powder supplement, but you can grow your own tree in the warmer parts of New Zealand. Sow seeds (available from Kings Seeds) in pots in spring. A sun- and heat-loving plant, it thrives in most soil types but doesn’t tolerate hard frosts. It will eventually grow to a height of 10m.