Marula: Limpopo’s Magical Fruit

We bet the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘marula’ is that famous creamy liqueur with an elephant emblem. It is actually a tree and a fruit but also, it can get you drunk!


Its Origin

Scientifially referred to as scelerocarya birrea and loved all over Africa, marula or “kanyi” in Xitsonga is an ancient tree with a history dating back as far as 10 000 years and has been an important source of food in Southern Africa. It is native to the Southern Africa region and other parts of Africa such as Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Uganda. It has also in some parts of Europe, Asia and America. In South Africa, it is found widely in different game parks and rural areas of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. According to the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, it is dominant in Phalaborwa in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. There are few interesting facts about the marula fruit and we share some below:

  1. Xitsonga lesson about ‘marula’

Marula in Xitsonga is “kanyi”, this word is used to refer to both the marula tree and fruit. The fruits the marula tree produces are called “makanyi” and the beer traditionally made from the fruits is called “vukanyi.”

2. It is an elephant’s favourite.

It isn’t a mistake that some alcohol brands or commercials include pictures of elephants in their branding, seemingly elephants love this fruit. Although debunked by scientists; elephants get drunk after eating marula fruit which has fermented on the ground or in their tummies.

3. It contains Vitamin C. – The marula fruit contains four times vitamin C than an orange.

4. It is an important source of food and beverage.

When cooked, it may be used to produce jams, juices, or alcoholic beverages such “vukanyi” in Xitsonga or marula traditional beer and famous modern creamy liqueurs. When the seeds are left to dry under the African sun, the walnut-sized stones produce nuts used as stable food or for enjoyment.

5. It is medicinal. – According to Sabi Sabi, various parts of the tree can be used in traditional medicinal remedies. Chewing the leaves from the marula tree reduces heartburn, the oil from the nuts can be used for skin treatments. Also, the bark of the tree contains antihistamine which is used as a malarial prophylactic, and can treat upset stomachs.

6. The marula tree is dioecious. – This means they have a specific sex. It is believed that the trees that bear flowers and fruits are female and the ones that only bloom are male.

Doesn’t all that sound magical?

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