Irvingia gabonensis (or wild mango, African mango, ogbono, or bobo) is originally from Western Africa, in the area that includes Nigeria, Angola and the gulf of Guinea. It is often confused with the species and varieties of Mangifera indica, which however does not have African origins and has different characteristics.
African mangoes have not gone through a true domestication process and, even today, the production is gathered from wild plants.
The tree can grow up to 40 meters tall, and the mature fruits are green with a soft, juicy pulp that is orange-yellow in color and quite sweet.
The African mango generally blooms at the beginning of the rainy season and the fruits ripen after about four months.
The pulp, when not eaten fresh, can be processed into juices, jellies and jams, as well as in a slightly alcoholic beverage. The seeds are of fundamental importance in traditional cuisine: the flour made from grinding them is used to thicken soups and stews (though it is also a strong flavor agent). There is a dish that is extremely popular in the African tropics made from beef and a salsa made of mango seeds. The flour is prepared through the traditional process called dika bread: the dried seeds are toasted and ground, then left to cool in containers that allow for the collection of the oil that they release. In this way the bread made out of these seeds can be preserved for more than a year.
Due to the high levels of fatty acids, the seeds give off an oil that solidifies at room temperature which is then used as an alternative to cocoa butter. Even the tree’s wood is highly appreciated for the products that are used by local artisans, like dyes. The trees are also used for their canopies, to give shade for coffee and cocoa plantations.
While the fruit is only interesting to the local populations, or perhaps in country markets, the seeds are sold all throughout Western Africa.