Izaquente

Ark of taste
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Izaquente

Zequencthe

African Breadfruit, known locally as izaquenteiro (Treculia africana) is a hearty tree that can be about ten meters tall and that grows spontaneously on Sao Tome and Principe. It has strong, thick, bright leaves. The fruit of this tree, called izaquente in the local Zequencthe language, and known as Opakala on the island of Principe, is round, green, and very large: it weighs between 10 and 15 kg. This particular variety is similar to bread fruit, but it has a smoother surface, and as opposed to the variety that is peeled and cooked to eat the pulp, izaquente is left to mature so as to more easily extract the multitude of seeds. Once these have been delicately removed from the fruit, they are washed and can be eaten immediately or left to dry. When this second option is preferred the seeds must be cooked for quite a long time before they can be eaten. Izaquente seeds are famous for their nutritional value, as they contain vitamins A, B, and C, along with mineral salts and other trace minerals.

One traditional recipe for this fruit is izaquente de açúcar. The fruit is cooked in a pot with water for about an hour. To this are then added salt, cocoa water, a cinnamon stick, and a pepper stick, all of which are mixed and boiled for about five minutes. Sugar is then stirred into the mixture which is left to boil for a few more minutes. To make the mixture creamier, the whole can be whipped with a mixer (or using the cata, a traditional tool from Sao Tome and Principe). The dish is finished off with the addition of a lemon peel.

In the past, izaquente seeds were a fundamental part of the local diet for families with little money, due to their nutritional value. They were prepared with a dash of oil or to make funge, a dish made with the seeds, salt, ossame, and pepper. Funge was a typical meal for pregnant women, as it stimulates the production of breast milk. The izaquente seeds are also used as an anti-inflammatory.

Izaquente is found in small quantities throughout all areas of the islands Sao Tome and Principe. It can be found in local markets, dried by the very few locals who work with this product. The product is at risk of disappearing because the tree’s wood is highly sought after for the construction of houses and because extracting the seeds is a difficult job that families no longer have time to do, preferring foods that can be prepared more quickly.

Image: © Marco Del Comune & Oliver Migliore

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