When making your way to Hakusembe River Lodge via the Ohangwena Region, you will come across Bird Plum trees as they are abundant to this region. Also found in southern Angola and Botswana, scientifically, the tree is known as Berchermia discolourand. It produces a wild fruit referred to as Eembe.
The tree has also been called: Bruinivoor (Afrikaans), Wilde Dattel (Deutsch), Fhûin (Khoekhoegowab), Omuve (OshiNdonga), Omuve (OtjiHerero), Nombe (RuKwangali), Mukerete (RuManyo) and Mukalu / Muzinzila (SiLozi).
Eembe is amongst the main types of wild fruits found in Northern Namibia, others consisting of: Marula (Sclerocarya birrea), Mangetti nuts / kernels (Schinziophyton rautanenii), Jackal berries (Diospyros mespiliformis) and Makalani fruit (Hyphaene petersiana).
Between the months of October to March, green to yellow flowers appear on the tree and 1,8 cm long oval fruits can be seen in groups of three on a leaf. The fruit then changes its colours from blue-green, to a light yellow and lastly when ripened to orange.
The harvesting period is usually between March to April. During this period, the people local to the area (including my family), collect the fruit for personal consumption and income generation. As children, my cousins and I threw makalani fruit pits, elders’ walking sticks, empty tins or bottles on the trees for the fruit to fall on the ground.
The fruit is a nutrient supplier, having a sugar content of 30% in the pulp and vitamin C of 65mg / 100g. It has a date-like taste with a pit inside, and eating experience is enjoyed by chewing on the pulp. Hence, it is consumed fresh or dried and stored for later use too. Also, it makes for a great snack in-between big meals.
The fruit can be fermented with water and other wild fruits to make ombike. Ombike is a potent traditional Oshiwambo brew that my aunt occasionally brews and is enjoyed by the family. The new Eembe Cream liqueur is made from the fruit and it has a distinct taste. You are able to find a local Eembe Cream vendor at the Windhoek City Market, situated on the corner of Liliencron Street and Robert Mugabe Avenue.
If you have tasted or like this fruit, we invite you to share your experience in the comment section below.
Author – I’m Nela, from Windhoek Namibia but born in a small village called Omatunda in northern Namibia. I am passionate about writing, research and photography, as it helps me gain knowledge about people and my country.