The buffalo thorn raw honey derives from the pollination of an indigenous tree (Ziziphus mucronata) distributed from Limpopo in the North, the Free State, Northern Cape, Limpopo, Swaziland, KwaZulu Natal, and the Eastern Cape, found growing in indigenous woods, and wooded grasslands.
The buffalo thorn is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 17m tall, with open, round, spreading crown, with the old branches that often zigzag. The bark is reddish brown or roughly mottled grey, cracked into small rectangular blocks, revealing a red and stringy under-surface. Flowers are borne in dense clusters in leaf axils and are green to yellow, whereas the fruit is approximately the size of a grape and is brown-red.
It is a hardy species, resistant to frost and drought, and it is a protected tree in South Africa.
Both the leaves and the fruit can be eaten, and the tree has an important cultural and symbolical significance: historically, in Zulu culture, for example, a Buffalo thorn tree was planted on the grave of a deceased chief to mark the burial place. In addition, the thorns of this tree are paired along the stems, one facing forward and the other facing backward, symbolizing the future and the past. In many parts of South Africa, the tree is believed to be immune against lightning, and anyone standing under one in a storm would be safe.
The mono-floral honey deriving from the tree is not only a tasty treat, but it is also believed to have healing properties inherited from the tree that produces the nectar, such as anti-microbial properties, that makes it useful for stomach ulcers, or chest complaints.
Buffalo thorn honey is rather different from other honeys and has an acquired taste. It is very dark, has a strong malt-like flavour, and not very sweet.