In the vast Namib Desert of Namibia, you will not miss the prickly !Nara plant or Acanthosicyos horridus. The plant’s name comes from the Nama and Damara languages of Namibia. It is pale green in colour and is mainly a shrub, which has no leaves but boasts blooming stunning yellow-to-green flowers.
It is found amid sand dunes, right where the subterranean water lies and is also common around the many rivers that make their way to the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia and southern Angola. It is therefore endemic to the Namib Desert along the west coast.
This plant’s robust thorns protect it from many browsers. Photosynthesis takes place within these thorns and the stem as it has no leaves.
The plant is dioecious, meaning the female and male flowers are on separate plants. The flowers of the female plant have a small swell right below its petals, whereas the flower of the male plant produces striking wax-like yellow-to-green flowers.
Fruits of the plant are spiky melons which are harvested between January to April. They are about 15 centimetres in diameter and weigh on average 1 kilogram. These melons grow between the spiky stems and are highly nutritious, as seeds contain oil and protein.
It is also a remarkable thirst-quencher with a refreshing sweet juicy flavour. It can also be cooked to a pulp as well as eaten as a fruit. It is no wonder that the !Nara melon has been a source of food for the Topnaar ‘?Aonin’ communities of the Kuiseb River for centuries. Additionally, tenebrionid beetles, birds, gemsbok, hyenas, jackals, mice and porcupines take time to delight in this melon. It certainly is considered a delicacy that you and I can nibble on too!
Due to the nutritious value of this plant, it has various uses:
The cold pressed oil contains excellent antioxidants, Omega-6 essential fatty acids as well as vitamins. It is also highly permeable as it moves the essential antioxidants, vitamins and moisture within the hydro lipid layer that covers the skin in order to re-hydrate and restore sensitive skin. Hence, the oil’s essential fatty acids and vitamins are the perfect aid for those with sensitive and dry skin. Perhaps it is the perfect therapy your skin has been longing for?
The oil can also be used as sun screen, massage and tissue lubricant, or to sooth scalps and stimulate healthy hair growth. And with its distinctive and pleasant smell it can be used as food oil, whether in salads or as a vinaigrette to drizzle over your favourite dishes.
If you have used !Nara oil products before? What are some benefits have you experienced? Where else one can find these products? Please share 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.