Kola Nuts (aka Cola Nuts) are a common sight in The
Gambia, playing a very important role in the culture
and traditional social life. The nuts are chewed and
are valued for it's pharmacological effects and euphoriant
qualities as a stimulant, aphrodisiac, hunger suppressant,
and healing properties.
nuts, the seed of Cola nitida and Cola acuminata, are
native to West Africa. It is a genus of about 125 species
of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa,
classified in the family Malvaceae, subfamily Sterculioideae
(or treated in the separate family Sterculiaceae). It
is related to the South American genus Theobroma (Cacao).
They are evergreen trees, growing to 20 m tall, with
glossy ovoid leaves up to 30 cm long. About the size
of a large walnut or small golf ball, they vary in colour
from pink to beige. They are the seed pods of various
evergreen trees; Sterculiaceae cola vera is the scientific
name of the most common species. The kola nut trees,
which grow as tall as 60 feet (18 meters), are most
common in Western Africa and the Atlantic coast area
of Central Africa. The flavour is extremely bitter;
most aficionados say the taste is acquired. They pack
a punch with a chemical that is similar to caffeine.
Where to buy them & storage:
They can be bought at any Gambian local market and many
corner shops and from a few street peddlers. The best
way to store them is submerged in water, as they grow
mould if left in a plastic bag.
Kola nuts play an essential part in certain social occasions
in Gambia such as naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals
and requesting for someone's forgiveness. They are commonly
used as gifts to show respect. When visiting an Alikaalo
(village chief), for example, it would be wise and polite
to present him with a few kola nuts.
The pods are also used to ease labor pains; seeds to
relieve diarrhea, nausea, and hangover. The roots are
used as a chewing stick to clean teeth and freshen breath.
Extracts of Kola nuts are regularly found in high energy
drinks and cola beverages such as Coca-Cola to be found
on Europe's supermarkets.