Gambian fruits are fairly common in private village orchards which
people use for private consumption or as a cash crop. The most
abundant are mango trees followed by
orange, lemon, grapefruit, papaya
and a few cashews.
Smaller and sweeter than the American
varieties, they are eaten just before they turn yellow. Their
scientific name is Musa sapientum "Indio" (Musaceae). The
banana plant, often wrongly referred to as a "tree", is
actually a herb, with a juicy stem which is
a cylinder of leaf-petiole sheaths, reaching a height of 20 to 25 ft
(6-7.5 m) and arising from a fleshy rhizome.
Suckers spring up
around the main plant forming a clump, the earliest sucker
replacing the main plant when it fruits and withers, and this process of
succession is continuous. Oblong, smooth, leaves, numbering 4 or 5 to 15, are arranged spirally.
They unfurl, as the plant grows, at the rate of one per week during
warm periods, and extend upward and outward, becoming as much as 9 ft (2.75
m) long and 2 ft (60 cm) wide. They may be entirely green, green with
maroon splotches, or green on the upperside and red purple beneath.
The inflorescence, a transformed growing point, is a terminal spike
shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem. At first, it is a
large, long-oval, tapering, purple-clad bud. As it opens, it is seen
that the slim, nectar-rich, tubular, toothed, white flowers are
clustered in whorled double rows along the floral stalk, each cluster
covered by a thick, waxy, hoodlike bract, purple outside, deep-red
within. Normally, the bract will lift from the first hand in 3 to 10
Female flowers occupy the lower 5 to 15 rows; above them may be some
rows of hermaphrodite or neuter flowers; male flowers are borne in the
In some types the inflorescence remains erect but
generally, shortly after opening, it begins to bend downward. In about
one day after the opening of the flower clusters, the male flowers and
their bracts are shed, leaving most of the upper stalk naked except at
the very tip where there usually remains an unopened bud containing
the last-formed of the male flowers. However, there are some mutants
such as 'Dwarf Cavendish' with persistent male flowers and bracts
which wither and remain, filling the space between the fruits and the
heterophyllus) family Moraceae. Common names: Jackfruit,
Large and prickly on the outside, jackfruit looks
like durian though larger. Once a
jackfruit is cracked open, you will find pods inside.
The tree grows to a height of between 9 to 21 metres tall,
with evergreen, alternate, glossy leaves to 22.5 cm long, oval
on mature wood, sometimes oblong or deeply lobed on young shoots. All
parts contain a sticky, white latex. Short, stout flowering twigs
emerge from the trunk and large branches, or even from the
soil-covered base of very old trees.
exterior of the compound or aggregate fruit is green or yellow
when ripe and composed of numerous hard, cone-like points
attached to a thick and rubbery, pale yellow or whitish wall.
The interior consists of large "bulbs" (fully developed perianths) of yellow, banana-flavored flesh, massed among narrow
ribbons of thin, tough undeveloped perianths, and
a pithy core. Each bulb encloses a smooth, oval,
light-brown "seed" (endocarp) covered by a thin white membrane (exocarp).
The seed is 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) long and 1/2 to 3/4 in
(1.25-2 cm) thick and is white and crisp within. There may be
100 or up to 500 seeds in a single fruit. When fully ripe, the
unopened jackfruit emits a strong disagreeable odor, resembling
that of decayed onions, while the pulp of the opened fruit
smells of pineapple and banana.
in Gambia begins in
May. You will see them everywhere on the trees—when they turn red,
they are ripe, though some on the sunny side of the tree will turn red
before their time. If a mango on a tree is too high to reach, you can
successfully knock it down with a stick. However, if you don’t want to
go to so much trouble, they are quite readily available at the local markets
and on street-side stands. It’s a good idea to peel them before
eating, as the oily skin might cause irritation around the lips.
Beware of the mango rash—in some people, an itchy rash similar to
poison ivy can occur from eating mango, especially the parts adjacent
to the stem.
are the most ubiquitous fruit as they can quite often be seen rotting
everywhere particularly in the rural areas due to their sheer
Comes from the Saba Senegalensis plant, and though it is eaten mainly by monkeys (hence
the name), it is edible for humans as well. Break open the round,
brown shell fruit and dig out the seeds with to suck off the
golden-yellow, sweet-sour pulp. It is most commonly found in is
commonly found in riverine areas and open woodland. In Gambia the
leaves are prepared in sauces and condiments as an appetizer with a
salty taste. Bark decoctions are taken for dysenteriform diarrhoea and
food-poisoning. Crushed leaf infusion has haemostatic/antiseptic usage
and the powdered root efficacious on children's burns. The latex is
used for pulmonary troubles and tuberculosis. Fruits eaten as a
Oranges in The Gambia are much smaller than you will be
accustomed to, but extra sweet and juicy. They can still be a
little green when ripe. In fact, by the time they start showing
a little colour, they are often past their prime.
actually a sub-tropical tree. The fruit does not continue to
ripen after picking so it must be left on the tree until ripe.
The natural orange colour of
Citrus sinensis (sweet orange) is
brought on by cooler temperatures.
So if you are growing oranges in cooler climates, the peel will
probably become orange. If you are growing them in the Gambia,
most varieties will stay green or sometimes yellow with green
areas when ripe.
Common names: Papaya, Paw Paw, Poor Man's Banana.
Pawpaw is a small, deciduous tree that may grow between 5 to 10m in
height. In the forest lower vegetation zone, trees often grow in clumps. This may result from root suckering or seedlings
developing from fruits that dropped to the ground from a parent
tree. In sunny locations, trees typically assume a pyramidal
habit, straight trunk and lush, dark green, long, drooping
Flowers emerge before leaves in mid spring. Flowers are strongly protogynous,
self-incompatible and require cross pollination although some
trees may be self-compatible. Pollination may be by flies and
beetles which is consistent with the presentation appearance of
the flower: dark, meat-coloured petals and a fetid aroma. Fruit
set in the wild is usually low and may be pollinator or
resource-limited but under cultivation, tremendous fruit loads
have been observed. Fruits are oblong-cylindric berries that are
typically 3 to 15 cm long, 3 to 10 cm wide and weigh from 200 to
They may be borne singly or in clusters which resemble
the "hands" of a banana plant (Musa spp.). This
aromatic, fruit has a ripe taste that resembles a creamy
mixture of banana, pineapple and mango. Shelf-life of a
tree-ripened fruit stored at room temperature is 2 to 3 days.
With refrigeration, fruit can be held up to 3 weeks while
maintaining good eating quality. Within the fruit, there are two
rows of large, brown, bean shaped, laterally compressed seeds
that may be up to 3 cm long. Seeds contain alkaloids in the
endosperm that are emetic. Avoid chewing the seeds.
Plum, Hog (or Sour)
These small fruits are sold at the market in May or June. About the
size and shape of olives, they range in colour from yellow to red,
with a sweet taste but large seed. Originating from South America,
they got their name because they are a common food for hogs—but don’t
let that you deter you from eating them! Scientific name: Spondias
mombin and often known as Saloum Plum.
A sour fruit, sold in small plastic bags at the
Gambian market—it looks
like a squishy brown bean pod. The bright green, pinnate foliage
is dense and feathery in appearance, making an attractive shade
tree with an open branch structure. The leaves are normally
evergreen but may be shed briefly in very dry areas during the
hot season. There are usually as many as 10 to 20 nearly sessile
1/2 - 1 inch, pale green leaflets per leaf. The leaflets close
up at night. The 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods
are borne in abundance along the new branches.
As the pods
mature, they fill out somewhat and the juicy, acidulous pulp
turns brown or reddish-brown. When fully ripe, the shells are
brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste
enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain
from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown, obovate seeds embedded
in the brown, edible pulp. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour
flavour and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in
vitamin B and high in calcium. There are wide differences in
fruit size and flavour in seedling trees.
pineapples, ditah, wonjo,
Ditah / ditax (Detarium senegalensis),