There’s no denying the fact that Africa brings to mind images of exciting and exotic foods, including African fruit varieties. With so many different climates and weather found throughout the continent, fruits of many varieties grow lush, healthy, and plentiful in various African nations. From the date plantations in Morocco and Tunisia to the exotic Sub-Saharan fruits like bananas and pineapples, the African fruit is exciting, delicious, and exotic indeed. This article will look at a few big names in African fruits, where they come from, and what their special properties are.
Courtesy of Eleni Bereti/imgund.com
Exotic African Fruits: Safou
A well-known and plentiful Sub-Saharan fruit, the Safou is found on evergreen trees with short trunks, glossy leaves and has a bit of a buttery texture and flavour, earning it the nickname “butter-fruit”. Safou is remarkably made up of high nutrients, making it a favourite, and is even used in medicines. Some of the composition includes 48% fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and triglycerides. This African fruit can be eaten raw, cooked, baked, or boiled.
Courtesy of Donte Hunter/Flickr
Exotic African Fruits: Baobab
Standing 20m in height, the Baobab is hard to miss. The tree is known to residents in Savannah as the “Tree of Life” as it provides people in the region with food, clothing, shelter and can even provide the all-important water that people need to survive. The bark is a fire-resistant material and therefore makes useful clothes and rope, the trunk can store water and provide shelter, and the fruit and tree leaves can be eaten and put in medicines. This African fruit itself has over three times the amount of vitamin C of oranges, 50% more calcium than spinach, and is chock full of other vitamins and nutrients, including antioxidants. The pulp inside this African fruit can be a bit bitter, but is often eaten raw, and is traditionally mixed with milk, water, and sugar, or cornmeal and cassava. The fruit of the Baobab is traditionally used to treat a number of ailments, including diarrhea, dysentery, smallpox, and measles. When mixed with honey, it creates a great cough syrup for colds, and Arabic sailors carry this African fruit on their vessels to prevent scurvy. There has been some research into the use of the Baobab as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, and there have been developments in using the fruit to even treat sickle-celled anaemia. Italy has been using this African fruit in beauty creams, tonics, and dietary supplements since 2001. While mainly found in Italy, they are exported to other countries.
Courtesy of Rear Curtain Sync/Flickr
Exotic African Fruits: Ackee
Originally found in the tropical parts of the continent, this African fruit was eventually taken to the Caribbean island of Jamaica, where they highly enjoy it today and have even made it their ‘national fruit.’ Ackee is, in fact, featured prominently in Jamaican cuisine. This African fruit has an interior cream coloured flesh, which is edible, with a bitter taste. It’s important to note that the outside flesh and the seeds found within are toxic, though, so only the inside flesh is suitable for consumption.
Courtesy of southafrica.net/steemit
Exotic African Fruits: Marula
The Marula tree is one of the most prominent found in the Sub-Saharan areas of Africa, and its fruit, small, yellow, and round are used in a variety of ways. The taste is pleasant and distinctive, and this African fruit itself is highly nutritious, with about eight times the amount of vitamin C of oranges. It ferments quickly when it’s harvested, so normally its seeds are harvested out and used to make oil or even a cream liqueur called Amarula. This African fruit itself and the flesh can be eaten raw or cooked, and even animals like baboons and elephants enjoy the taste of the Marula.
Courtesy of hintng.com
Exotic African Fruits: African Oil Bean
Like the Baobab, the African Oil Bean is high in amino and fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and even protein. The seeds within the bean are used to make oil or additionally eaten as a fruit themselves. With 44% protein in them, the seeds make a fantastic substitute for areas that have a limited meat supply. They also have magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, phosphorous, and calcium within the seed, but leaving the seed to ferment too long can break down a lot of the nutritional value, but is also eaten as a snack called Ugba. The seed of this African fruit is used to treat diarrhea and anaemia since it can increase the amount of haemoglobin in the blood. Additionally, the tree of the African Oil Bean is beneficial to the soil and is planted in areas where the soil isn’t very fertile. The soft wood of the tree itself is used for carvings, fencing, and charcoal. The bark and leaves are also used in medicines for things like convulsing, wounds, and diarrhea.
Courtesy of Steve Peterson/Flickr
Exotic African Fruits: Horned Melon
Known as African Cucumber or Jelly Melon, this particular African fruit is yellow in colour and covered in distinctive horn-like spines. The bright green jelly flesh inside is edible and supposed to taste similar to a banana. The skin of this African fruit is also edible and contains high amounts of fibre, and vitamin C. Used as a source of food, and sometimes for water, the horned melon is a favourite throughout Africa, and is now grown in other places around the world due to its increasing popularity, including in New Zealand, Chile, and California, to name a few.
Courtesy of Ingetje Tadros/Flickr
Exotic African Fruits: Kola Nut
This African fruit is a little nut that packs a lot of punch and has been in the past used to flavour many of the cola beverages we enjoy in the west. With high levels of caffeine in this nut, it is an ideal addition to drinks that we consume to get a bit of a punch of energy. Manufacturers of cola drinks have long turned to artificial colours and flavourings, but this African fruit is still used in organic cola manufacturing and other drinks around the world. The nut itself is high in minerals such as theobromine – the same diuretic found in cocoa and tea. Other nutrients include riboflavin and niacin amongst others, such as protein. Locals chew this African fruit to stop things like hunger and fatigue due to the caffeine content, and it can also help expand the bronchial tubes to help with things like whooping cough and asthma. The caffeine and theobromine in this nut as well can help treat migraine headaches, and chewing this African fruit prior to eating can aid in digestion as it stimulates gastric acid production.