Ark of taste
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The tola (Beilhmielda manni) is native to the rainforests of Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Liberia. While it is mostly used for timber in the latter two countries, in Sierra Leone there are many traditional recipes using the flowers, leaves and, especially, seeds of this plant.
It is a small evergreen tree, which can reach up to 10 m in height, and is found in the undergrowth of the rainforest, in swampy areas and often on riverbanks. The bark is greyish brown and the leaves are lanceolate. The shoots emanate an intense smell, similar to cedar (which is why it is also known as spicy cedar). The fruit is a berry with a thin skin that turns red when it reaches maturity, and a seed. It blooms in January and bears fruit between October and December.
To the local communities, the tola is an important source of income, especially for its wood (commercial names: kanda, kanda rosa), used for the production of window fixtures, furniture, floors, canoes, etc. (often as a substitute for mahogany).
The dried seeds and the flour extracted from them are rich in carbohydrates, calcium and phosphorus. The bark, used in preparation of some foods and medicine, contains traces of alkaloids, while the leaves are rich in flavonoids.
The leaves are very aromatic: crushed and immersed in water for a few days, they become a popular drink. The flowers are used to season rice and many other dishes. The fruit is an ingredient in many different sauces. The seeds are toasted, ground and used as a condiment in soups, rice, and vegetable dishes. Furthermore, an edible oil can be extracted from the seeds.

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StateGuinea Bissau