Discover the most exotic Fruits of West Africa and its benefits
The majority of West African countries have a tropical to subtropical climate with a balance of sunshine and rain. This ensures that the soil stays fertile throughout the year and many different fruits can both grow naturally and be cultivated.
1. African Cherry Orange
The fruit, locally known as omuboro is endemic throughout Western Africa. It has a tangerine-like shape and a sweet flavor. The fruit is 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter and thus comparable to cherries size-wise. It is used in traditional herbal medicine. The root is considered an aphrodisiac for men, as they contain alkaloids, which increase blood circulation in sexual organs. Further, the leaf extract can lead to a significant increase of serum testosterone levels.
This fruit is also called African pear or butter fruit, due to its shape. The outside is blue and violet. Inside it is green. It is rich in fats, thus the name butter fruit and high in calories. It also contains amino acids, micro nutrients and minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Due to its nutritional value it can help alleviate hunger and malnutrition. The fruit is used for skin care, helps eliminate dysentery, has anti-oxidants to combat cancer and is high in fibers, which enhance digestion.
This fruit can be found in the dryer Sahel region of West Africa, on sandy loam soils. The fruit is aromatic, juicy and has the size of a plum. The fruit contains one to two nuts with a high protein content. It can be eaten raw or processed to jams and alcoholic beverages, due to its fermenting characteristics. The inside bark-like composition makes it of use for rope and dye production. Further, the bark has antihistaminic compounds to fight allergies and is good for treating dysentery (gastroenteritis) and diarrhea and is a malaria prophylactic. Another useful part of Marula is the wood for carvings. The fruit oil has use in skin cosmetics. The leaves have a positive effects on relief of heartburn.
4. Miracle fruit
It has a bright red color. The flesh contains miraculin, which can trigger the taste buds to have a sweet sensation only. Therefore it can be used in food preparation as sugar replacement. Other benefits are improvement of insulin sensitivity and antioxidants.
5. Horned Melon
It is also known as African cucumber or kiwano. It has a thorny shape and is yellow once it is ripe. The inside flesh is green and has a jelly texture. The taste can be compared to bananas. The bitter unripe fruit should be avoided as it can cause stomach problems, headache and fever. The fruit can keep significant amounts of water during the dry season and is therefore important to prevent food shortage in sub-Saharan Africa. The water content is 80% and is often used to rehydrate people. Another benefit is the high amount of essential nutrients. At the same time, it is low in calories and fats. The antioxidant alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) helps in reducing free radicals and thus prevents cancer. Vitamin E also counteracts in developing Alzheimer´s disease. High levels of vitamin A support eye sight. Vitamin C and zinc found in the fruit are beneficial for the skin, to keep a healthy complexion and prevent age spots and wrinkles and boost collagen production.
This tree carries fruits, which have a hard shell similar to coconuts with a sweet tasting flesh and a flavor similar to pears. The fruit contains vitamin C and high amounts of antioxidants. Studies have shown that baobab has higher amounts of antioxidants than some common berries. The fruit is usually eaten to improve digestion, due to its high value of dietary fibers.
This fruit is related to the more commonly know fruit lychee. Ackee grows in Western Africa only. The ripe fruit has cracks, which expose the seeds and pulp. The unripe fruit is poisonous. The fruit is rich in proteins and dietary fiber and therefore aids digestion. However, it has high amounts of sodium.
The fruit is mainly known for the production of shea butter, which is a common ingredient in the cosmetic industry. There its application is mainly in skin moisturizing and as sun block. On the face it is used against acne, wrinkles, dark spots and eye bags. Other use is in hair care products. The fruit can be eaten, however, this is not common. The oil is often used for cooking.
9. Bitter kola
The plant produces flowers. It is important for certain tribes of Nigeria. Geographically, it can be found mainly in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria.
It is used as remedy against cough and fever. All parts of the plant can be used, with the fruit and the seeds being the most important ones. It contains vitamin A and C and minerals such as calcium and potassium. The most common uses are in the improvement of libido and sexual performance.
10. White star apple
This plant is native to Nigeria. It is related to the common star apple, but is a variety which has white, instead of purple flesh. It is used to treat toothache and sore throat. The dietary fibers are beneficial for the digestion. It has higher vitamin C content than oranges. Further, it can lower cholesterol level.