If we fail to anticipate the unforeseen or expect the unexpected in a universe of infinite possibilities, we may find ourselves at the mercy of anyone or anything that cannot be programmed, categorized or easily referenced.

June 05, 2007

Zimbabwean Tropical Fruit Trees


Uapaca kirkiana, commonly known as Mazhanje, Mahobohobo or Wild Loquat grows throughout Zimbabwe at medium altitudes in good rainfall areas free of frost. The fruit is a fleshy round berry, up to 4cm across with a tough reddish brown skin surrounding juicy yellow-brown pulp, in which several hard white ridged seeds are embedded. The skin contains bitter tasting tannins which necessitates time-consuming and expensive hand pulp extraction.

The fruits are amongst the most popular in Zimbabwe -they are harvesting in large baskets and sold in urban markets, this is striking as the trees primarily grow wild. The fruits are collected ripe in the morning or raw, when raw they are prepared into dark warm enclosures, but are inspected daily and turned when necessary, until they are ready to be eaten.

The pulp is honey sweet with a slight flavour of oranges. It is eaten fresh with the tough skin and seed being discarded. A fried or baked cake is sometimes made from the pulp, with fine mazie meal and an egg added. The ripe fruit pulp, broken up and stood in water, is sometimes left to ferment, making a sweet wine.



Ziziphus mauritiana, commonly known as masau in Zimbabwe, originates from India, and came to Africa via Arab traders plying the costal routes of neighbouring Mozambique centuries ago.

The fruits are 1 - 3 cm in diameter and are yellowish to deep mahogany brown in colour when ripe.

Whilst the masau is eaten fresh, it can also be dried for use throughout the year or made into bread. The fruit is also used as the base for distilling a local alcoholic beverage - kachasu.



Sclerocarya birrea, commonly known as marula, grows widely in southern and eastern Africa. The fruits are 3-3.5 cm in diameter with a white clinging flesh and a large stone. Mature fruit drops when still green and ripens to a yellow colour on the ground. Harvesting is done by picking up the fallen fruit.

Of all the nutrients in the marula, the vitamin C content has attracted the most attention. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C, containing more Vitamin C than oranges. As much as 200mg vitamin C per 100g has been recorded in the marula pulp which is approximately four times that of oranges and comparable to the amount present in guavas and blackcurrents.

The fruit is eaten fresh, just like a mango, and is also used to prepare juices, jams, preserves, dry fruit rolls, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Claims are made that the fruit may be used as an insecticide as well as a germicide and that the juice can be used as a mood enhancer and to relieve stomach ailments.



Adansonia digitata, known locally as muuyu. The baobabs grow in isolation and are susceptible to strong winds, they have deep-penetrating roots that allow them to withstand even the wrath of cyclones. They produce leaves for only a short time during the rainy season, when they also develop huge pink or white flowers.

The trees are pollinated by bats and have a fruit as unique as the tree itself. It has a furry coating around a tough, gourd-like shell that shields a soft whitish pulp inside which is rich in nutrients and seeds that are rich in citric acid and oil.


Annona squamosa, kown locally as muroro. This small bush has a creamy fruit with aromatic flesh. Similar to the cherimoya but with a sweeter taste, sometimes with a hint of mint. Fruit is excellent quality . Dubbed the "sugar apple" requires a more tropical climate than the cherimoya.




Casimiroa edulis, known locally as muzhanje. This tree has apple sized fruit with a yellow-green skin and custard like flesh having a sort of banana-pineapple flavor. Tree is hardy to the low 20's. Tree grows well in areas where citrus grows. It has quite large seeds. Tree is known as mushanje or 'whitemans mushanje" since the tree only came to the region with the advent of missionaries.






Cereus repandus.

Its a tricky business eating this fruit. You need to be quite the handy person otherwise you will find yourself in an embarassing situation at the EU. The thorns are quite hard to get rid of on the thorny type.(right:Opuntia ficus-indica)
Columnar cactus producing baseball-sized, red fruit, with sweetish, white colored pulp. This cactus is very easy to grow in pots, and is moderately hardy. Fruits are similar to the dragon fruit.


Cucumis metuliferus, known locally as gaka
A fine example of diversity. It is usually knobby orange skinned when ripe (sometimes stripped orange and green) and has bright green flesh. Tastes somewhat like a cucumber but with a more sweet flavour. Related to watermelons and cataloupes,
the horned melon is a vining plant, easily grown in a warm summer garden.




Syzygium cordatum, known as mhute in local areas
This tree usually grows near streams and bears an ablong purple fruit the size of berries that has a mild flavour.










Ximenia caffra

This short shrub has an ablong fruit, orange to red when ripe. The fruit is edible and has sour flavour.

Known as munhengeni, fruit as nhengeni






Parinari curatellifolia, known locally as muhacha in an evergreen, medium sized and mushroom shaped tree that grows up to 20m in height. It grows in sandy soils, in open deciduous woodlands.

The fruit, hacha, are red-brown when ripe, round, scaly and speckled. They mature from October to March. These fruits are fleshy and contain an edible sweet and fibrous pulp and one to two seeds enclosed in a hard stone. The seeds are a very rich source of oil.


vitex payos, known as mutsubvu, fruit as tsubvu.
Shrub or small tree. Bark distinctive, grey-brown anddeeply fissured. The leaves are densely covered with hairs are bright green. The fruit is a shiny black, ovoid to subspherical with a pulpy black flesh which is sweet and a hard large seed.








Strychnos spinosa, known locally as mutamba
Shrub or small deciduous tree. Bark rough and flaking but not deeply fissured and corky. The fruits, damba, are spherical, up to 12 cm, hard-shelled, speckled-green, turning yellow-brown, edible and tasty but are said to be not as good as those of cocculoides, which is similar but has a softer shell and is much sweeter. Known locally as mbumi.






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