Have you ever wondered if elephants really do get drunk when they eat Marula Fruit? And is it good for anything else, other than South Africa’s much loved Amarula Cream Liqueur?
Well, you might be astounded to know that in Swaziland alone, there are about 2 million Marula Trees and, on average, a mature tree can produce up to 500kg of fruit a year. And long before Amarula Cream became one of South Africa’s best exports, rural women were making “buganu”.
Well, first off, we have to put the myth to bed once and for all – it is virtually impossible that an elephant will ever get drunk eating fermented Marula fruit off the ground – or that the fruit ferments in their stomachs. Scientists have advised that the sugars in the fruit would be turned to fat before fermentation takes place – and they much prefer the fresh fruit off the tree, rather than the rotting fruit that has fallen. So if you find an elephant at a Marula tree, you can be sure it will be sober!
And talking of sober – or not – rural women gather the fruit, cut off the pulp ( which is not a very thick layer) and with this, brew a traditional drink called “buganu”. Powerful stuff which can keep people off work with big hangovers.
As for the rest of the tree, Marula trees are truly gifts from Mother Nature. They provide us with such an impressive range of uses that it’s no wonder that the fruit has become so popular. The Marula belongs to the same family as cashew, mango and pistachio and here are some benefits:-
- The astringent bark has a range of medicinal uses, including treatment for diarrhoea, diabetes, fever and malaria.
- The Zulu and Tonga peoples both call Marula the ‘marriage tree’, and a brew of the bark is administered as part of a cleansing ritual prior to marriage.
- The inside of the bark serves as a natural histamine, used in the treatment of allergic reactions and insect bites. It is also known to draw mild venom out of wounds.
- The fruit’s high pectin content, and delicious flavour, makes it ideal for jam, and it has also been used for sweets, liqueurs, syrup and preserves
- The vitamin C content of the Marula fruit is eight times higher than that in an orange. The fruits are also rich in oleic acids and antioxidants
- The leaves of the fruit are often crushed up and eaten, as they have proven time and time again to be far better than conventional antacids and are favoured by pregnant women who opt to forego chemically enhanced products.
- The oil is predominantly oleic acid, which makes it an excellent component in skin-care formulations, while also containing linoleic, palmitic and stearic acids. It is also tremendously stable, outperforming all known natural liquid oils.
- Marula oil is one of the most important natural oils available. It is similar to olive oil and healthier for the skin, hair and body than most other cosmetics.
- Marula oil is also quite rare in the sense that it consists of 28 % protein. It is called the new “miracle oil” in the cosmetics industry thanks to its composition of monounsaturated fatty acids and its rich content of antioxidants and is highly nourishing, hydrating and naturally softens and revitalizes the skin.
- The nuts or kernels of these trees are very delicious with a delicate aroma.
- The kernels and the oil are said to be effective meat preservatives
These trees are known by different names in different regions. Some of its common names include Morula, Jelly Plum, Cider Tree, Elephant Tree, Marriage Tree, Cat Thorn, Canhoeiro, Dania, Mutsomo, Mushomo and Umganu.
The Marula is a dioecious tree which means male and female flowers grow on separate trees. The female trees bear female flowers and fruits while the male trees bear only male flowers.
All in all, Marula Trees really ARE a big deal, so how about making a trip into Swaziland to see how prolific they are at Royal Jozini Big 6 Reserve? Book a bush lodge home of your choice and when you get there, see how many Marula Trees you can spot. Then relax with sun-downers to enjoy pristine bushveld at its best.