Recently, I was discussing with my nephew about primary school activities and how the younger generation cannot enjoy the fun we had, during my days as a primary school pupil. I told him about a fun activity we were engaged him at the time, where we go to pluck ‘fruit’ from the tree, eat its back and go ahead to break the shell with a stone, to get the nut, beautifully hidden somewhere in the middle of it. Some of you most likely already know the fruit I’m talking about.
I observed that he wasn’t getting my description, I then decided to take him to go see the trees, and to my greatest surprise, they were no longer there. All the three big trees had been cut off. I took him to our ‘alternative source’ and I only met a commodity store at the exact location. There were no traces of the tree! Oh! My dear, almond tree. On our way back to the house, I began to wonder, “how many almond trees do we have in this community?”, because growing up, those were the four trees I knew, and they no longer exist!
Like me, you must have been worried as to why you can no longer find your favourite fruits in the market, on the streets or even in the gardens. These fruits are disappearing! I understand that there are seasonal fruits that you get to see only during their blossoming periods, there are some that are naturally rare fruits, because they’re introduced to us, and not our native fruits. But have you wondered why most of the everyday fruits you used to have, are no longer in circulation? They’re are disappearing and undergoing extinction.
These fruits are going into extinction because they’re no longer grown in the large quantities they used to be grown. Some of these fruits are not even grown anymore, and the occasional appearances they have are from the already grown, and dying ones. In this article, I’ll be discussing with you, fruits that used to be popular in the Nigerian markets, but are likely to go extinct, soon:
1. Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa)
The Almond’s fruit is commonly called “fruit” in Nigeria, while the Yoruba people of Southwest, Nigeria call it “Ofio”. Tropical almond is native to Southeast Asia, but is highly distributed in Nigeria, Ghana and other African countries. It can grow 30-55 feet, with evenly distributed large, glossy, leathery, green leaves. The fruits, when unripe, are green, but changes to yellow or red, when they’re ripe enough to be eaten. The outer part is researched to be high in tannic acid. The shell in the inside can be sun-dried and can yield yellow oil. According to research, the nut has more protein than chicken and more fibre than oats. Although, the almond tree is popularly grown as an ornamental plant, or a shade tree, it somehow finds its way to the childhood reminisces of many Nigerians.
2. Black velvet tamarind
Black tamarind is from a tree native to West Africa, Dialium guineense. This age-long fruit used to be popular in Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, and other some other African countries, but recently, have stopped being popular. As a matter of fact, people in their teens or early twenties may not know this fruit, because it is no longer a common fruit like the oranges, pineapple or watermelon. It is an orange coloured, powdery pulp fruit with a thin velvet black shell. It is known as a alternative analgesic, hence, sometimes used to relied menstrual cramps. The pulp can also serve as flavour to drinks and beverages. The twig of the plant serves as local chewing stick. There are vitamins such as ascorbic acid, B-carotene and tocopherol, and minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and copper.
3. Siriguela fruit (Spondias purperea)
Also known as red mombin, and popularly called “iyeye” in some the Southwest part of Nigeria, the siriguela fruit is a specie of flowering plant from the cashew family, and is native to tropical regions of America, from Mexico to Brazil. It is also very common in some Carribbean Islands. It, however, somehow found its way to Africa and became a popular childhood-memorable fruit. This fruit is oval shaped and is green when unripe, and turns yellow when ripe. Research shows that red mombin is rich in vitamins and minerals, and it’s an excellent source for those with low immunity, anemia, or lack of nutrients. The nutritional elements include vitamins A, B, C, calcium, iron and phosphorus. It is also rich in fibre by assisting the body with digestive processes.
4. Red monkey kola
The red monkey kola is popularly known as “Obi Ẹdun” in Southwest, Nigeria and is one of the species of West African kolanut tree, mostly found in the wilds, where it grows on its own, and then harvested by farmers, who come in contact with it. It has a reddish exocarp and a whitish seed on the inside. Findings have revealed that monkey kola lowers the risk of heart disease, aids metabolism, helps maintain healthy bones, and is highly recommended for weight control. Its leaves are therapeutic and are used to cure eye infections. According to nutritionists, we have fewer fruits today when compared with what we used to have five decades ago. There are many reasons why fruits may go extinct, just like some food crops and animal extinction. However, if nothing is done to increase the cultivation and preservation of these fruits, in two decades to come, we may have them no more.