Msongolo

Ark of taste
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Msongolo

Msongolo (Strychnos spinosa) are round fruits that turn dark yellowish-brown when ripe. They are also sometimes called elephant fruits, as they are also consumed by elephants. In Malawi, the ripe flesh of the fruit is eaten as a gum or candy. It’s taste is sour and when overripe becomes alcoholic. If eaten in excess it may cause one to become drunk. In addition, the roots of the tree are also dried and used as an herbal medicine in Malawi for the treatment of syphilis, gonorrhea and epilepsy.   It is said that the fruit was first discovered in ancient times when a group of hunters ran low on their food supplies. In the bush, one man tasted the fruit and found himself drunk. After further experimentation, it became known as a food source when eaten in moderation. Msongolo is harvested between September and November.  It is not sold commercially, but collected for personal use.   Overharvesting of the trees’ roots has lead to the decline in the number of trees in the area. Furthermore, there is competition with animals for the fruit as a food source, and particularly elephants seeking the fruit as a food source often damage or destroy the trees in the process.

Image: © Marco Del Comune & Oliver Migliore

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