Drying and Grinding Moringa Stenopetala

Highlights:

  • Preferable to grind and dry in close proximity to the where the leaves are grown.
  • Drying time: 3.5 days (but you could probably settle for 2 or 2.5).
  • Yield depends on coarseness of grind. I have 2.9 kg of finely ground leaf powder, and 2 kg of less finely ground leaf powder that together were derived from roughly 40 kg of fresh leaves.
  • Different methods of grinding: traditional vs. local mill vs. there’s probably a better way.

After arriving in Awassa with a truckload of fresh moringa stenopetala leaves, it was time to sort and dry the leaves. The optimal method, I believe, would be to sort and process the leaves immediately after picking and in relatively close proximity to the farm or farms from which the leaves were sourced. When you transport moringa, you certainly don’t want to pay the expense of transporting fresh moringa long distances, as it is much heavier than the leaf powder (finished product). Moreover, it is better to process the leaves fresh from the tree, rather than transporting before hand.

Unfortunately, we had to transport the fresh leaves the long 300 km to Awassa. The leaves were picked between approximately 4-7 am on Thursday morning, November 5th. We did not go directly, were not in a hurry, and arrived back in Awassa the evening of Friday, November 6th. Saturday was spent sorting the leaves and then laying them out on a large tarp in a warehouse style building to dry. It was excruciatingly slow work picking the leaves from the stems (again, something I believe could be done much faster and easier when picked fresh – possibly you only pick the leaves the first time through, and then go back and cut the green stems back in order to keep your trees at the proper harvesting height).

The leaves dried until Wednesday, November 11th. On Wednesday we then had a worker grind the leaves with the traditional, large style mortar and pedestal (pics of this process will soon be posted to Lamp Post Photos, link at the right). This yielded about 5.5 kg of ground leaf powder. Desiring a finer powder, I decided to take 3.5 kg to the local mill to see if they could grind it finer.

Yared and I had such severe allergy attacks while in the mill I thought we may both have to leave for lack of air. If it had taken five minutes longer, I am sure I would have had to leave. The air was full of dust, which was actually ground peppers, wheat, flour and anything else you can imagine that is possible to grind.

The owner of the mill, Ato Getu, is quite a gentleman. He wore a top hat and had that gentlemanly look about him, and did not let me down. He took the time to change the filter in one of his old grinders to ensure that we would get the finest quality he could produce. Then, he ground my 3.5 kg for free. Generally, it cost around 5 birr to grind 20-30 kg, depending on the product.

After grinding the 3.5 kg had been reduced to 2.9 kg., but was of a finer consistency. Conducting personal taste tests, I prefer the finer consistency because it is less leaf like to consume – as far as texture is concerned. It is, however, unfortunate, to lose so much of your product in grinding. I am sure you could devise a system that would prevent losing this much product when sieving and grinding.

The next challenge is to research nutritional reports on ground moringa stenopetala leaf powder, and hopefully get the powder we have tested. If anyone has advice on where I may test the nutritional value, and properties of the leaf powder, please let me know. I will be stateside for a month around Christmas, and hope to visit university libraries at that time to see what past research has been produced. I have read some reports claiming that other than vitamin C, very little nutritional value is lost in the drying process. Further, the powder, gram-for-gram, contains much higher levels of nutrients because it is essentially in concentrate form.[1]

Many thanks to Ben Taylor, Yared Sisay, Water is Life International and Selam Awassa Business Group for all of the assistance.

JTV
Awassa, Ethiopia


[1] Trees for Life International, ‘Moringa Presentation,’ http://www.treesforlife.org/our-work/our-initiatives/moringa/moringas-potential/moringas-potential