In Africa, food
scientists say several species of the custard apple family could help provide
alternative foods in times of scarcity.
One of them, the
junglesop tree [Anonidium mannii], may
be medium-sized, but not its fruit: it can be as long as a person's forearm and,
at up to six kilograms, about as thick as a human leg. The junglesop is a tree common to Central Africa.
The tough and
leathery brown skin of the fruit yields to soft yellow-orange flesh that can be
either sweet or sour, depending on the maturity of the seed and the genetics of
the tree it came from. The fruit can be an acquired taste, so rich in flavor
that food scientists say some people can only eat a little at a time.
It's much enjoyed
by the people of the Central African rainforest, who call it "bobo." For the
pygmies, it provides an extra source of calories.
Roy Danforth is an
Evangelical Covenant Missionary who (with his colleague Paul Noren) been
documenting the junglesop and other fruits for three decades:
"The pygmies know all
about the junglesop and absolutely love the fruit," says Danforth.
"There's no need to promote
it among them. They know what time of year they produce; they are an excellent
resource on which trees to go to.
"The junglesop," he continues, "needs
research [for example, on how to create] improved
varieties by grafting genetic material from the trees with fruit that is
seedless or [sweet] tasting all the time. Only 30 percent [of the trees produce fruit that
tastes good]: there is a balance between the sourness and sweetness of the
fruits; some are almost all sour. But the ones that are sweet [have] an excellent
flavor that rivals a peach."
But it may be years
before junglesop is grown on a large scale. Agriculturalists say work is needed
in learning how to fight the fungal diseases that affect the trees. Danforth
says scientists also need to develop plants that can produce fruit within
years. He says some that he has developed have not produced fruit in two
Food scientists say
the junglesop is just one of several varieties of custard apple fruits that are
grown in Africa but have been ignored by Western food scientists.
In southern Africa,
another is the yellow or reddish colored groundsop [Annona stenophylla], a fruit who pumpkin colored flesh is eaten
both raw and cooked.
Villagers in other
parts of the region make jam from the pulp of the small scarlet fruits of a shrub
called baboon's breakfast [Hexalobus
monopetalus]. Seeds from the tree, which grows well in both dry and moist
climates, make a spicy condiment.
fruit of the custard apple family is the bright red dwaba-berry [Monanthotaxis caffra] of northern
KwaZulu Natal in South Africa and the scarlet-colored fruit called
monkey-fingers [Friesodielsia obovata],
which are said to look like sausages hanging from the tree. The fruit can be
stewed or made into jelly and wine.
dwaba-berries, junglesop and groundsop are just a few of indigenous fruit
documented in the series Lost Crops of
Africa by the National Research Council.