Many parts of the moringa plant are edible and nutritious, especially the young green pods, the foliage, and the roots.
Young moringa pods are 30-60 cm long and often served as a vegetable. They contain a balanced combination of all the essential amino acids, something unusual in a plant food. Moringa pods contain 20-30% protein by weight, very high for a vegetable. The pods have some of the highest vitamin C levels of any tropical vegetable, as well as good amounts of vitamin A and the B vitamins, and various minerals.
In many countries, moringa foliage is boiled and eaten like spinach. Like the pods, the leaves contain amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, both of which are essential to health and among the most difficult amino acids for the body to obtain from plant foods. Moringa leaves also contain vitamins A and C and a good amount of B vitamins, more calcium than most other greens, and so much iron that doctors prescribe them to patients with anemia. Regular consumption of leaves is reported to increase milk production in lactating women. The leaves appear at the end of the dry season in West Africa, a time when few other leafy green vegetables are available.
Moringa roots are a popular condiment, similar to horseradish. In fact, moringa is known in some areas as “the horseradish tree.” The shoot tips, flowers, and even whole seedlings are used as boiled greens and are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Beyond its nutritional benefits, many scientific studies have found that extracts of the moringa plant have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, fight cancer and boost liver health, protect nervous system functioning, and lower fat levels in blood.
For more information, see chapter 14 in Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables from the [U.S.] National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Press, which can be downloaded at https://www.nap.edu/read/11763/chapter/16