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.
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 days. 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 upper rows.
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 terminal bud.
(Artocarpus heterophyllus) family Moraceae. Common
names: Jackfruit, Jakfruit, Jaca.
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.
or 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.
mango ripening season 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.
Mangos are the most ubiquitous fruit as they can quite
often be seen rotting everywhere particularly in the
rural areas due to their sheer abundance.
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 sterility treatment.
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. Oranges
are 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.
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 leaves.
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 400 g.
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):
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 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.
watermelons, pineapples, ditah, wonjo, Ditah / ditax
(Detarium senegalensis), family: Fabaceae.