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It’s easy to write off so-called “superfoods” as fleeting trends—from açaí to goji berries, they’re often food items imported from far-flung places that make, at best, a brief cameo in our everyday diets. Moringa, however, may have the staying staying power that the others lack.
Rachael Kmita first learned about moringa while visiting her friend, a former ER nurse, in the remote village of Luamala, Zambia. There, a Peace Corps volunteer told the pair that the green-leaved tree growing in their backyard could help mitigate malnutrition. With no internet access, they set about researching the plant in real time: The friends took ground moringa leaves and began feeding them to Celestina, a malnourished two-year-old who wasn’t expected to survive.
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As Celestina’s health dramatically improved, the duo began planting more of the drought-tolerant moringa trees in the community and continued treating children, as well as nursing mothers, with the plant. The tangible results in Zambia inspired Rachael to investigate moringa further when she returned to Denver; in the summer of 2016, she set about formulating a marketable product starring the plant. A smoothie add-in wasn’t the answer because, in its raw form, it can ruin a raw drink. “Moringa on its own is extremely intense and kind of earthy, with an almost spicy flavor,” Rachael says. “One of its nicknames is the horseradish tree.”
Although she hadn’t yet settled upon a product, Rachael wanted to partner with a nonprofit from the outset. So she set up a meeting with her now-husband Michal Kmita, the executive director for the Invictus Initiative, which focuses on global issues surrounding agriculture, education, and health. The couple’s first date doubled as a business meeting, and by the time Moringa Infusions debuted at the South Pearl Street Farmers’ Market in spring 2017, the pair were engaged.
To make moringa more palatable, Rachael looked to an unlikely ingredient: vinegar. In recent years, sipping vinegars have become popular; Portland’s Pok Pok offers a full line of flavors; Vermont Village out of Barre sells portable, one-ounce sipping vinegar shots; and Colorado’s own Dram Apothecary hawks switchel drinking vinegars touted for their rehydrating properties. In fact, the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are the primary motivator for many who sip the stuff.
Sample any one of Moringa Infusions’ three flavors—ginger and lemongrass, elderberry and holy basil, and spearmint and rosemary—and you’ll be hard pressed to taste extracted moringa amidst the raw Colorado honey, unrefined apple cider vinegar, and various herbs, berries, and flowers. Shots of a one ounce serving are delicious, but the concentrate is best when combined with soda water, mixed with olive oil to make a vinaigrette for a salad, or drizzled over yogurt for a zingy topping.
So, yes, Moringa Infusions’ products are tasty. But they also pack a wallop of nutritional benefits, including 92 nutrients, 18 amino acids (nine of which are essential), and 46 antioxidants. Soon after launching Moringa Infusions, customers returned to the Kmitas recounting powerful experiences. Folks were reporting everything from improvements in digestion, mental clarity, and energy to reduced inflammation. Some even claimed that their acne, arthritis pain, or allergies had disappeared, while lactating mothers reported an increase in milk output.
Thanks almost exclusively to word-of-mouth marketing, Moringa Infusions has gained customers across the country and is planning on introducing new flavors to meet growing demand. Made from organic ingredients—including honey from Longmont and vinegar from Hotchkiss—each bottle is handcrafted by the Kmitas and takes anywhere from one to two months to create. At $22 for an eight-ounce bottle ($38 for 16 ounces), a serving size of the tonic costs less than a latte. Plus, 15 percent of profits go to non-profit organizations that fight malnourishment here and abroad (including the Invictus Initiative).
“Ours is a little different than a typical business structure, where you’re trying to develop a product for market to make a lot of money,” Michal says. “Our whole goal is to empower people to use their skills and resources to impact others and do it in a sustainable way. We’re focused not so much on the short term, but on educational initiatives and program development—on really creating sustainability in feeding people and feeding them well.”
Moringa, it seems, is a “superfood” that just might help change the world.
You can order your own bottle of Moringa Infusions sipping vinegar here.