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Tropical Fruits Grown in Gambia
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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 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.

Jack Fruit:
(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.

The 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.

The 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.

Monkey Fruit:
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 sterility treatment.

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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. 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.

Asimina triloba
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 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)
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.

Tamarindus indica
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.

Other fruits:
Baobab, watermelons, pineapples, ditah, wonjo, Ditah / ditax (Detarium senegalensis), family: Fabaceae.


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