(CBS News) — Divya Alder serves a special tea at her New York City restaurant. It’s made with powder from the leaves of a moringa tree.
“This is going to grow into a big tree,” said Alder pointing to a young plant she’s growing.
Moringa is a true superfood, one of the world’s most nutritious plants. It’s a proven anti-inflammatory with high levels of protein, multiple vitamins and minerals.
“My research has been on some of the medicinal aspects, particularly related to treating diseases related to chronic inflammation,” said researcher Carrie Waterman, who is working with the University of California-Davis on a moringa project in East Africa.
The hardy plant thrives in challenging environments and may be a tool to combat global hunger.
Waterman is helping Kenya residents grow their own plots. “To have it as a security crop in their compounds and then potential to local markets, regional markets and then export markets,” said Waterman explaining the financial security the plant offers those who grow it.
Oakland-based Kuli Kuli Foods sells moringa powder, nutritional bars and smoothies. Company founder Lisa Curtis first encountered moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger.
“I did a little research and thought this plant is incredible! Why aren’t more people eating it,” said Curtis.
Economic empowerment is a key ingredient in Kuli Kuli’s mission. The company partners with small farmers in 11 countries, including Pierrette, a widowed mother who was fighting for survival in West Africa.
Pierette ended up starting a moringa business. She now employs 122 women.
Moringa’s nutrition levels depend on the part of the plant used and whether it’s fresh or dried. The entire plant is edible.