by Emil I Mondoa, MD
One of the many African foods I miss is what most people
call the plum or bush butter. It is a completely different species of
fruit than what people in the West call plums. It is native to the west
coast of Africa, between Eastern Nigeria and Angola, and goes by the
botanical name of Dacryodes edulis. Everyone knows that it is
boiled or roasted and goes very well with fresh roasted or boiled corn.
It presents a different more complex flavor when it allowed to ripen
and become soft, and can be eaten at that time without cooking.
Recently, I came across a well researched book, entitled
"Lost Crops of Africa", which details a large number of food crops that
are little known outside of Africa. I was very impressed by the
nutritional content of this fruit, which is mostly eaten as a snack in
Africa. It turns out that this snack could have more nutritional power
than the main course.
is very rich in high quality protein, containing essential amino acids
at levels to be found only in meats and eggs. It is superior to a lot
of other plant sources of protein in this regard. It is also rich in
oils that are important for energy. The kind of oil in the butterfruit
is the good kind that is healthful to the heart. It is very low on
salt, which is good news for people with high blood pressure. It also
has such minerals as phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The
source says nothing about the vitamin content.
In summary, this fruit is an important nutritional source, good for
people of all ages, but particularly good for growing children,
including those suffering from malnutrition, and could be a good
substitute for meats, eggs and milk. African governments should do
further research into this traditional crop, and encourage people to
continue to cultivate it in their farms, compounds and commercially. A
lot of that is going on already, without government help. It is
encouraging that this tree thrives in places with poor or marginal
soils, which are a lot of places! I was also surprised to learn that
the seeds, which people normally throw away, also yield a useful oil
and the wood is of good enough quality to construct furniture.