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NOTE: The information presented here was edited by our Urban Forester from an article published by the Moringa Garden Circle.

Native to India, and commonly known as the Horseradish Tree because of its pungent edible root, Moringa Oleifera is a soft-wooded tree that grows to about 25 feet tall, with corky bark and feathery leaves. Leaves are about two feet in length and composed of very numerous, small leaflets.  After about 8 months the tree begins to flower and continues year round.  The flowers are white, fragrant, nearly an inch wide and grow in loose clusters. The fruit is a nine-ribbed cylindrical pod, about 15 inches long. Seeds are three-angled, winged, and yield a product called “oil of Ben” which was commonly used to lubricate watches.

Virtually every part of the Horseradish Tree is edible. The leaflets can be stripped from the feathery, fern like leaves and used in any spinach recipe. Small trees can be pulled up after a few months and the taproot ground, mixed with vinegar and salt and used in place of horseradish. Very young plants can be used as a tender vegetable. The flowers are edible or can be used to make tea. Young pods, and the surrounding materials, can be cooked in a variety of ways and are said to taste like asparagus.The oil from the seeds can also be used for cooking. Some parts of the tree has medicinal effects as well.

Horseradish Tree in Bloom on Riverwalk
Flowers of Horseradish Tree
Horseradish tree seed pod

This beautiful tree is located on the east side of Andrews Avenue Bridge near the Huizenga Plaza’s Band shell. It was graciously donated by the Moringa Garden Circle.

Growing the Tree

It is an extremely fast growing tree and it is advisable to prune frequently, beginning when they are young, or they will become lanky and difficult to harvest. The breaking off of tender tips (used in cooking) when the trees are about 4 or 5 feet tall results in the trees become much bushier. 
It seems to thrive in impossible places — even near the sea - in bad soil and dry areas.  Seeds sprout readily in one or two weeks.  Alternatively, one can plant a branch and within a week or two it will have established itself. It is often cut back year after year in fence rows and continues to thrive.  Because of this, in order to keep an abundant supply of leaves, flowers and pods within easy reach, topping out is useful.  At least once a year, one can cut the tree to three or four feet above the ground.  It will readily sprout again and all the valuable products will remain within safe, easy reach.
 
The tree responds well to mulch, water, and fertilizer, but the branches are brittle.

More Information

Read the full, adapted article by our Urban Forester, Gene Dempsey, at his blog Gene's Green Scene. You will find further infromation on cultivation and use, as well as more pictures

For more information and recipes on the Horseradish Tree go to the Moringa Garden Circle’s website.

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