Transvaal Milkplum

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The Transvaal Milkplum is a small evergreen tree (Bequaertiodendron magalismontanum) that in South Africa is found in the region that till the 1994 was called Transvaal and that now includes the provinces of Guateng, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Kwazulu Natal.
Other common indigenous names are stamvrug (Afrikaans), motlhatswa (Tswana); mohlatswa (Northern Sotho); munombelo (Venda); amanumbela (Zulu); umnumbela (Swati).
This small tree, often hardly more than a shrub, grows only in the wild on rocky cliffs and in ravines, is relatively drought resistant and at least some types seem frost-hardy. It grows on many soils, but seems to occur most commonly on dry and well-drained slopes.
The Transvaal Milkplum flowers from June to December and produces fruit from December to February. The fruit is bright scarlet, with plum-like fruits with pinkish-purple pulp of pleasant flavour. It turns to maroon red when ripe from mid December to the first week in January about the shape and size of a cumquat. It has got a white sticky milky “blood’ when picked and is very tasty when fresh. The small trees have clusters of leaves & fruit along the stems. The fruits are about 25mm in diameter with a small pip.
The harvest depends on the season: some seasons the yield is very big per tree while the next 2 to 3 or even more years there is no yield. Some seasons you will find fruit only in a certain area and in the following season only in another area. The fruit is of course a great favourite of baboons.
The consumption of the Transvaal Milkplum fruit dates back to earlier generations.
It is known that indigenous people often collect large quantities, crush them in water, and boil the resulting extract with maize to produce a colourful and tasty porridge. The fruit is not only eaten fresh but is also popular for making tart jelly, syrup, wine, vinegar, jam, rose type and it can be distilled to make a milkplum brandy. The jam—not unlike plum jam in appearance and flavour—is slightly, and deliciously tart. Pulverised bark is used as a cure for rheumatism and headaches are treated with the roots. A decoction made from the roots is also used for treating abdominal pains. It is also said that an infusion of finely powdered roots and fruits has been used to cure epilepsy.
It is documented that the fruit is very high in vitamin C (40mg/100g) which it does not loose when in jam. Transvaal Milkplum is regarded as a valuable tree to have on any farm, as it provides fodder and food for a wide variety of animals and insects.
Transvaal Milkplum is difficult to collect, it can occasionally be found for sale in certain areas, but it is not well commercialized.

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Indigenous community:Venda and Zulu
Nominated by:Judith Shopley