Ark of taste
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The African Medlar (Vangueria infausta) is a wild plant native to southern Mozambique and the southern part of Africa in general. The plant’s origins are not documented, but its presence in this part of the world goes back centuries at least. It can be found in the tree-lined Savannah and all along the forested and rocky coasts. The locals do not plant this tree, as there is a general belief that it brings bad luck, even though it would be quite easy to plant the seeds. African Medlar grows rather quickly and is very resistant to drought. It belongs to the Rubiaceae family. The bush can grow up to between three and seven meters tall and has a smooth silver trunk that shakes toward the left, especially when it is young; this may be the reason that the bush is believed to bring bad luck. The white-green flowers are small and grow together at the ends of side branches. The fruit are almost spherical olives, with a roughly three cm. diameter that are yellow when they first blossom and brown upon maturation. The pulp of these fruits is a ruddy-brown color, while the seed is rather large and looks like a button. The fruit’s flavor is both sweet and sour, but delicious. The bush’s flowers bloom between September and October, and the fruit is harvested between the end of January and April, and at times even through the end of May, but the flavor can change significantly depending on when it is collected.The fruits can be eaten fresh, once they are peeled, or dried out. A cream is often made out of the consistent pulp. There is even a popular desert made out of the Medlar fruit, which calls for them to be crushed in warm water until a smooth cream is formed, to which sugar is added. The mixture is then placed in the refrigerator and served cold. The sweet polenta made from this product calls for the fruit to be mixed with a liter of water which is brought to a boil. Flour is then added and the mixture is stirred for about 15 minutes. Once this is done sugar is added to taste. Another important use of this tree is tied to traditional medicine: indeed, the plant’s roots are used to cure malaria and pneumonia, while the leaves are often soaked in water and diced to make a paste used to cover cuts and small wounds. As locals believe that the tree brings bad luck, the small trunk is never cut or used to make charcoal, and the fruit is eaten ever more infrequently. In fact, the fruit can only be found for sale in informal markets, mainly in Maputo, but the whole plant is used less and less these days. Despite the fact that this plant was once an important part of local gastronomy in the remote past when food was less available, today the reduction in its use, and therefore in the harvest, makes this species ever more underappreciated and at risk of extinction.

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