Moringa is known by many names throughout the world: drumstick tree, mother’s milk, the tree of life. But the plant is relatively unknown in the United States, and its extensive nutritional and medicinal benefits are only beginning to be studied.
In this episode of Food Out Loud, host Nathan Mikita chats with Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Curtis began researching the moringa plant after personally discovering its exceptional nutritional benefits while living in a mud house with no electricity in Niger, West Africa. Before adding moringa to her diet, she almost exclusively ate rice and millet and often felt tired and faint. The name “Kuli Kuli” comes from a traditional African peanut snack called kuli-kuli, with which Curtis began mixing moringa leaves.
With help from an Indiegogo campaign, Curtis officially launched Kuli Kuli five years ago. Kuli Kuli has since partnered with over 1300 women’s cooperatives and small family farms in eleven countries. Together, the company has raised over 4.4 million dollars in revenue and is now sold in more than 7000 stores. Curtis hopes the work will provide continuous financial and nutritional security for those communities and family farms. She quickly found that the best way to ensure farmers ate more of the plant was to have them grow it themselves.
Moringa may be the most nutrient-dense superfood in the world—though, as Curtis notes, that designation depends upon how you are measuring nutrient value. “Most plants are 90% water. Moringa is 80% water,” says Curtis. “It’s a complete plant protein. Very few greens like that have fiber, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin C. It’s more nutritious than kale.”
According to recent studies, moringa is better than turmeric at reducing inflammation within the body. The plant is also proven to help regulate blood sugar levels, thus providing natural relief for those who suffer from diabetes. Some swear by the plant for soothing arthritis, and new mothers often take it to promote lactation.
Energy bars, shakes, shots, and powder are the main products Kuli Kuli currently offers in such grocery stores as Whole Foods, Safeway, CVS, and Costco. When breaking down the plant, Curtis and the rest of her team endeavor to avoid losing any valuable nutrients. “We’re very careful in the process. We work with farmers to harvest leaves in the morning when the leaves are fresh, and wash, dry, and mill them into a powder within 30 minutes of harvesting.” Vitamin C is the only nutrient lost during the harvesting and delivery process.
Listen to the above episode of Food Out Loud and learn more about the next steps for Kuli Kuli and the medicinal benefits of moringa.