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Strange Fruit


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Do you ever get in one of those moods when you're depressed because you think you've tasted every fruit there is & you start lamenting the fact that you don't live thousands of years in the future when they've solved the secrets of interstellar travel & you can get glipjix fruit from Rigel at your local supermarket?

 

It turns out that there are still new frontiers of fruit to be explored right here on Planet Earth. You just have to look deeply enough into Africa:

 

Given how many tropical fruits have already made their way into western supermarkets, here are some African staples that shoppers may soon find in their shopping cart.

 

Chocolate berries (Vitex spp)

 

Scattered across tropical Africa, these trees produce an abundance of blackish fruit with a chocolate flavour.

 

Aizen (Boscia senegalensis)

 

A scrawny scrub in the hottest and driest regions, its fruits, seeds, roots and leaves are eaten by desert-dwellers. The yellow, cherry-sized berries are sweet and pulpy when ripe, and harden into a sweet caramel-like substance when dried.

 

Ebony fruit (Diospyros spp)

 

Best known for their valuable, jet-black wood, ebony trees also produce large, succulent persimmon-like fruit with a delicate sweet taste.

 

Gingerbread plums (several genera of the family Chrysobalanaceae)

 

Distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the plums this tree produces have the crunch of an apple and the flavour of a strawberry.

 

Medlars (Vangueria spp)

 

These trees grow well in arid areas and produce fruits that, when dried, have the flavour and smell of dried apples.

 

Sugar plums (Uapaca spp)

 

Found in woodlands, this tree bears juicy fruit with a honey-like taste.

 

Sweet detar (Detarium senegalense)

 

A leguminous tree of savannahs, its pods contain a sweet-and-sour pulp which can be eaten fresh or dried.

 

I sense an entrepreneurial opportunity here.

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Medlars are sold in Venice (or at least Murano) and old trees can be found in the countryside in Tuscany. I considered buying a tree from a specialty orchard in Oregon as a reminder and seeing what I could do with the fruit, but it still hasn't happened.

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A medlar tree is on my shopping list. A very acquired taste as you have to wait until they are virtually rotting to eat them. But I understand you can cook with them when they're hard but I know of no-one who has done so.

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Three entirely different fruit

 

Medlars in the English sense are Mespilus germanica which need to be rotted (bletted) to be edible.

 

Medlars in the Italian sense are also Nespole, Eriobotrya japonica, also know as the Japanese medlar; these are the vaguely apricotty thing with blotches on the skin.

 

and the african fruit in the article is completely another thing, Vangueria infausta,

aka African medlar, (also there is Vangueria edulis aka Spanish tamarind).

 

I don't think they are related, but just happen to have the same name; like an apple and a custard apple.

 

 

 

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