The name kukumakranka is a Koina name given by the indigenous people of the West Coast, though it is often mistakenly attributed to the Afrikaans language. Koina is now an extinct language, and Afrikaans been influenced by the Khoekhoegowab indigenous language group. The name is interpreted in Afrikaans to mean ‘goed vir my maagkrampe’ (or, “good for my upset stomach”). Kukumakranka fruit belongs to the various species of the Gethyllis genus that grace the summer-arid regions of southern Africa, particularly in the southwestern regions (the Western Cape) of South Africa. These are deciduous bulbs from which a plant emerges in the winter, followed by a strongly perfumed flower that can be smelt from far away. This flower does not last very long and upon pollination will set fruits with a very sweet flavor: the kukumakranka. Usually it is propagated naturally as the bulbs form large clumps and the seeds will germinate quickly if the conditions are right. Traditionally kukumakranka was used dried as a perfume and later, preserved in brandy to infuse the flavors. It has also been used medicinally. It is certain that other uses of this fruit have been lost with the loss of indigenous peoples and indigenous knowledge, also due to a vast percentage of the land where this plant is found being developed. Kukumakranka can occasionally be found for sale in certain areas, but it is not well commercialized. The plants are difficult to cultivate and transplant due to their deep roots, and can be difficult to locate in the wild as they are not easily identifiable when not in growing or in bloom. The continued use of this fruit has mainly become limited to people of Dutch descent who preserve the fruit in brandy, the most common way to see the fruit used in the area today.
Image: © Kobus van der Merwe