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Plants for your health

With recent disruptions in the availability of food and basic supplies, people are looking at how they can be more self-sufficient. Many of you are growing your own vegetables and fruits; why not grow your own health supplements too? Here are some plants to keep you healthy that anyone can grow.

Moringa – The leaves of this “Miracle Tree” are packed with Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin A, Potassium, protein, and beneficial amino acids. The leaves have antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties. This plant contains substances that help regulate blood sugar, reduce high blood pressure, and lower cholesterol.

Moringa tree seed pod

Moringa grows easily from seed in well-drained soil, and will grow your height in a year. It is cold sensitive so plant it in a protected area.

To harvest leaves, just strip them off of stems. Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach; young seed pods and flowers are cooked. Seeds are edible raw or cooked, and can also be used to make tea, or crushed and used to purify water.

Papaya– Papaya fruits are full of Potassium, Vitamins C and A and Folic Acid. Leaf extracts have been studied for treating many conditions including Dengue fever. Commercially, large green fruits are cut and “milked” for the sap, which contains the enzyme papain. The sap is dried and used in medicine for things like wound salve, and is also used in beauty products, brewing beer and making cheese.

Papaya plants can be grown by seed from a grocery store papaya fruit. Plant seeds in a pot and transplant into a sunny, moist (but not flooded) area. You’ll need several papaya plants and lots of pollinating insects in your yard for good fruit production. Plants can be male, female, bisexual, or even a combination. Bisexual plants will produce fruit without a male, female plants need a male plant to produce fruit, but male plants won’t produce good quality fruit.

If the strange smell of ripe papaya offends you, squeeze lime juice over it. I prefer to eat the raw, unripe fruits in Green Papaya Salad. For the most health benefits, eat the fruit raw. You can peel, cut, and freeze papaya for use later though.

Pine– Pine trees are everywhere, but unless you’re a squirrel, you probably never thought of them providing anything consumable. Pine needles have been used in folk medicine for ages, and in recent years have been found to contain antioxidants, Vitamin C, and antibacterial and antifungal properties. They also contain shikimic acid, which prevents the flu from reproducing, reducing illness symptoms and duration.

Pine trees are suitable for large yards, and should be planted at least 100 ft. away from homes. Even if you can’t grow pines in your backyard, they are readily available to pluck a few needles from.

To make pine needle tea, cut up a few green pine needles in a mug and pour hot (not boiling) water over them. Wait until they sink to the bottom of the cup.

As with any food or supplement, some individuals may have sensitivities to certain plants, and should consult their medical professionals before using them. For gardening and farming information, contact the UF IFAS Extension- Osceola County: 321-697-3000.

More information:

UF FACTSHEET ON GROWING PAPAYA

MORINGA SEED SOURCE

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