Chrysophyllum Albidum; the botanical name of a type of fruit bearing forest tree commonly found in tropical Africa, the tree that gives the African Star Apple. Still confused? Well, the African Star apple is what the people of southern Benin call “azongogwe”, what the Igbo people of Nigeria call “udara”, what the Ga people of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana call “alasa” and what the Yoruba people of Nigeria call “cherry” (agbalumo). The African star apple is a fruit with a shape somewhere between being round and being Ovoid. It sports a bright apricot color or bright orange when ripe. Commonly referred to as a cherry, this is a highly nutritious fruit with wide appeal. These are the things you need to know (characteristics) about the African Star Apple.
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME “AFRICAN STAR APPLE”
Not many people know how the English name of this fruit came to be. This fruit was studied and described by the Scottish botanist George Don, and he noted that on an average the fruit contains five flat bean shaped seeds. He further observed that when the fruit is sliced sideways to peel off the skin without touching the seeds, the seeds form a star shape on the inside, and since the fruit generally looks like an apple, it was befitting to bestow upon it the name African Star apple. You would agrees that this name is a mouthful (pun intended).
WHERE IN AFRICA IS IT FOUND?
The assumption would be that it is found all over Africa since it is called the African Star apple but this fruit is only found in tropical Africa, the Western part to be more precise. This fruit is grown majorly in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Benin, and it is called by different names in these countries. The tree grows as a wild plant and the African star apple tree is 25 to 100ft tall with a very thick trunk and bright orange fruits hanging all over it, some fruits spread over the floor. the fruits are sometimes allowed to drop to the ground before they are harvested.
Several varieties of the African Star apple have been described. The edible ones differ slightly in shape and have different tastes, some are sweet while others are sour. It could sometimes be difficult to tell the ones that have a similar appearance apart although some varieties could be green in color. The variety commonly harvested is also locally called “Nwannu” which has a sweet taste.
THE TASTE OF THE AFRICAN STAR APPLE
The African star apple contains a pulp that has a very distinct taste, the one major characteristic of the fruit that a lot of people identify to, is the fact that it packs a punch. There’s a complex savory-sweet taste, and after sucking in all the pulp, the inner part of the flesh can be chewed continuously as it has a chewing-gum like texture. The agbalumo is relatively cheap and highly nutritious.
WHAT SEASON DOES IT COME OUT?
This fruit comes in season from December to April, coinciding with the harmattan season so much that people take the start of harmattan as the start of the season of the fruit. The rains in December herald the start of the African star apple season, and people generally believe that the fruit gets sweeter as the rains fall.
OTHER USES OF THE FRUIT
The African star apple is a phenomenal fruit in general and its uses are almost unlimited. Its trees are exported and used for internationally top grade timber known as Longhi rouge or longui. The bark of the tree can be used to locally treat various ailments.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE AFRICAN STAR APPLE
The African star apple is said to have several health benefits. For instance, studies have shown that it has more Vitamin C than the Orange… The Orange! That’s just outrageous. Not only that but this fruit is superb as it is an antioxidant and it is very high in food value – it contains phenol, flavonoid, anthocyanin, proanthocyanidin and many more.
Interestingly, It has been found to contain only a few calories. The star apple is an all action friendly companion, the African star apple is also said to provide up to 10% of the body’s daily requirements of calcium
As stated earlier the African star apple is highly nutritious; packs a punch when blended with a few cups of water. They also said to have hypoglycemic activity as the African star apple has been found to reduce the level of blood sugar on intake as well as have anti-platelet activity; the roots and the barks of its tree are used locally for sprains, bruises and wounds in southern Nigeria and the roots extracts are also used to arrest bleeding from fresh wounds and to inhibit microbial growth of known wound contaminants and to enhance wound healing process as discovered by studies.
The fruit is also said to be excellent for maintaining a functioning metabolism. If interested in the full nutrient composition, see here
Many people feel like the harmattan season and its season are the same, but they are not. Although they both begin at December, the African star apple season ends at April while harmattan ends in the middle of March. Some people also feel because of its high nutritional values that it can cure diabetes, it cannot – it can only help in lowering of blood sugar at the point of intake.