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.


vumba nature... tulimara...tradewindsfruit...plantzafrica...zimbabweflora...tumaga...IBN


Unknown said...

hi Kundai,

Your blog is impressive. Well done to you. Needed to find for myself fruits from Zimbabwe, I know you have scientific names but wondered if you had the families for these fruits e.g mazhanje which English fruit family it is. All the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kundai, hope more people will read your blog. It's very good.

diddy47 said...

thanx for the comment...but sadly i dont think i can find the english names for the fruits, but will try...keep watching the space

Anonymous said...

Great information didd47.It's good to see some of what our beautiful country has to offer. Could you please add the Ndebele names to those fruits.

diddy47 said...

i cud very much do that now..only problem is all i can say in ndebele is "i love you" and I an not even sure about the spelling. If you have the ndebele names can you supply then and I will gladly add them...thanx for the comment

Anonymous said...

Great blog. well done.

Anonymous said...

great job! I have been trying to locate this fruits ad their classification. excellent! mind I ask the source, who classified these fruits?

Anonymous said...

this is very impressive. good work

Ka-danger said...

I am a Zimbo and was crawling around the web trying to find a decent picture or words to explain mazhanje to my fellow Aussie friends, this was just ace. Well done for your input into this and a massive THANKS.

martin chinyanga da william said...

this is awesome, very pleasing, lovely reseach, l have taged this web site to my friends on a group on facebook called Mitupo Yedu / Izibongo Zethu / Our Totems


this is wonderfull ndapererwa , i loved it.. please keep on with this nice work.

martin chinyanga da william said...

Cereus repandus ..shona name chinanazi or mudhorofio

brian said...

Great list, I wish some of these fruits were available more easily in the US so I could try them!

Nimzo said...

I am an American fruit hobbyist with family links to Zim. Casimiroa edulis is called "white sapote" in the U.S. Delicious fruit, a bit like an avocado but sweet. Huge tree. Trees can be purchased at specialty nurseries in places like Southern California and Florida.

Zyziphus mauritania is a type of "jujube" or "chinese date." This tree is also available from American nurseries.

I'm not familiar with the other fruits listed. I'd like to try them!!

diddy47 said...

thank you for the comment and showing interest in these fruits...cheers

stella said...

my dad is putting pen to paper on his childhood days. many of these fruits were on their farm Enkeldoorn on Charter Road then known as Southern Rhodesia. though there are many more he remembers but cannot remember the names. do you have any more pictures or names? something known as the snot apple, grys appel, mispel,noem noem?

rufuswrongway said...

Thank you so much for your amazing research. I am writing a novel about zim and this will add so much to my landscape and gastronomical descriptions. Do you know what the scientific name for munyii is? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great job! This brings great memories growing up in Zim. During the Christmas holidays I remember enjoying most of these fruits. At least now I can easily show my friends what Mazhanje look like. I have been searching for a while online.

We have a beautiful country that has a large variety of fruits to offer to its people.


diddy47 said...

thank you for your comments and for visiting this blog and sharing your thoughts

diddy47 said...

rufuswrongway...i made a new post including your request..hope you find the info useful

Lydia said...

A great blog l am writting a Zimbabwean cookbook and ths has help a lot.you can check my blog at http://www.myzimbabweankitchen.blogspot.com

Unknown said...

Ko dohwe/mutohwe unonzii nechirungu

Unknown said...

Hey! That's an interesting listing. The fruits sure bring lots of memories. Just a slight correction on "mhute". Shouldn't it be "muhute" since it's a tree? Tsubvu are now in season, if anyone wants some from Zim.

Tsubvu is "umutshwankelo" in Ndebele.

Unknown said...

1. Tsubvu is called hubvu in many parts of Zim (Masvingo, Midlands, Western Manyikaland and parts of Mashona
2. Hacha is called chakata
3. Mazhanje are called mashuku.
4. Marula is Tswana/Sotho, in Zim we call them mapfura

Your blog is very informative! Thanks.
Chapanduka Zimuto

d said...

very informative post any chance on the general English names which are not necessarily the scientific ones. Here is a list of some that I collected http://thesovereignstate.org/indigenous-fruits-of-zimbabwe-3/

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for all your hard work, my husband and I are now able to show our children pictures of the fruits we grew up eating. to those who want English names rather than botanical names, simply do what I did and copy the botanical name and paste it into google search, it will give you other articles related to the fruit and also the common English name.

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about nzambara...Scientific name, for instance?

Unknown said...

I live in south Africa,
Do you know of a nursery that will send seeds?
I have many of these species but cant find Uapaca kirkiana anywhere I have been searching for years!
I go on holiday to the Matopos in Zim sometimes but cant find it still.
What a lovely blog! these fruits deserve to be known more.

diddy47 said...


These fruits are quite something, for me they bring back precious childhood memories

Unfortunately I can't help you with finding a nursery as I now live abroad

There are places like

and books like


that can provide information. There aren't many places that deal with these kind of plants as their cultivation is still largely unknown....the most accessible route is to grow your own seedling from trial and error. Fry my experience properly dried seeds germinate well...but i wouldn't be able to vouch for how well the plant will grow or be able to bear fruit

Unknown said...

snot apple

Unknown said...

snot apple

Unknown said...

Am curious to know the type of roots a mutamba tree has...is it tap root.....I am.looking for Zim local fruit trees with tap roots

Unknown said...

Have started a nursery for these local trees anyone in need can contact me

Unknown said...

snot apple

Afrofoodie888 said...

Hi there, this is awesome!
Please can I have the scientific name for Dohwe, or matohwe.
Can I also know what Nyebve, Runi, or mutsemwatsemwa is called, it makes a lovely bittery vegetable eaten fresh or dried as mufushwa!
Great blog!!

Unknown said...

@sam Kanhukamwe please contact me about plants @makkisha@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I travel a bit to the country side and have been enjoying these fruit when in seasons. I like the list.