Ark of taste
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Tetrapleura tetraptera is a species of flowering plant in the pea family native to Western Africa. The plant is called Prekese (or, more correctly, Prɛkɛsɛ) in the Twi language of Ghana. The bark of the tree is fairly smooth, gray-brown and very thin. The sessile, smooth or minutely hairy green leaves grow from a 15-30 cm long stalk. Flowers appear around the end of February and are a pinkish-cream color, turning to orange, and are densely crowded, 5-20 cm long racemes. The smooth, dark purplish-brown fruit, which ripens from September to December, hangs from the ends of branches. It has a curved shape, and is typically 15-24 cm long and 5 cm across, with four wing-like ridges nearly 3 cm wide. Two of these are woody, but the other two are filled with an oily, aromatic, soft, sugary pulp. The kernel of the hard black 8 mm-long seeds contains an oil.

The pod is used in the preparation of soups, especially palm fruit soup and other light soups. It is placed in the boiling soup some minutes before the soup is ready. It is used as a spice and source of vitamins, minerals, proteins and lipids. The Asante people have used it as a spice over a century. Traditionally, men will chop the pod into pieces and soak them in a local gin distilled from sugar cane (known as akpeteshie) for two to three days, and drink 10-20 ml as an appetizer which is also believed to boost sexual performance.

The alarming rate of deforestation in Ghana puts this plant at risk of disappearing. Large areas of forest are being converted for cocoa production and for other farming purposes. Also, mining in forest reserves also puts the tree at risk of disappearing. Another challenge is the fact that the tree does not do well in pure stands plantations. After ten to twelve years the tree begins to die. However the situation is not the same if the tree is planted in a mixed stand plantation. There is the need, therefore, to protect the tree its natural habitat.

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