Marula produces single stem that can reach 29 to 59 feet in height. Tree has wide, round-shaped crown. It produces compound grayish-green leaves which consist of 3 to 7 pairs of oval shaped leaflets with pointed tips. It is dioecious plant, which means that male and female flowers develop on the separate trees. Marula blooms from September to November and attracts insects which are responsible for the pollination of the flowers.
Marula produces small, plum-shaped fruit. Ripe fruit is yellow and available from January to March. Fruit has juicy pulp and one or two hard-shelled seed (nuts) in the middle. Harvest of marula takes place on the ground (ripe fruit falls from the tree). Each tree produces around 1.100 pounds of fruit per year.
Elephants, kudu, warthog and waterbuck like to eat fruit and leaves of marula.
Fruit contains 4 times more vitamin C than orange. Marula can be consumed fresh or in the form of juices, jellies and jams. It is also used for the manufacture of alcoholic drinks and tea.
Seed (kernel), hidden inside the hard shell, is also edible. It can be consumed raw or roasted. Extraction of the kernel is delicate work. Hard shell can be cracked only with the use of stone, which can easily crack the thumb at the same time. It takes 24 hours for the extraction of 1.7 pounds of kernel.
Wood of marula was used for the manufacture of toilet seats and tomato boxes during the colonial times. Today, wood is mainly used for carving. Inner bark is used for the manufacture of ropes.
Bark of marula is used in treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and insect bites. Leaves are used in treatment of heartburn, spider bites, skin burns and abscesses. Leaves can be also used in treatment of hypertension, inflammation and pain.
Marula tree has spiritual meaning among the African tribes. People often gather under the tree and perform various rituals. Marula is perennial plant (lifespan: more than 2 years).
The skin of the fruit can be boiled to make a drink or burnt to be used as a substitute for coffee. The tree's wood is soft and used for carving; the inner bark can be used to make rope. Archaeological sites have shown Marula fruit to be used as a food source since ancient times by Africa's tribes. The tree's bark can also be used to make a light brown dye. Their green leaves are eaten to relieve heartburn. The bark contains antihistamines and is also used for cleansing by steeping in boiling water and inhaling the steam. A piece of bark is crushed into a pulp, mixed with cold water and swallowed in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea. The bark also is used as a malaria prophylactic.
The Marula Fruit is very juicy and aromatic and is the size of a small plum. It may be eaten fresh and the flesh has an extremely high vitamin C content. It may also be cooked to produce jam, juices and alcoholic beverages.
Below is a list of the health benefits and uses
of marula fruit, illustrating the fact that the fruit is extremely versatile and good for you:
1. The leaves of the fruit are often crushed up and eaten,
as they have proven time and time again to be far better than conventional antacids. The marula fruit leaves are an effective remedy for heartburn and are favoured by pregnant women who opt to forego chemically enhanced products.
2. The bark of the marula tree has also proven to be quite useful
. The inside of the bark serves as a natural histamine, used in the treatment of allergic reactions and insect bites. It is also known to draw mild venom out of wounds.
3. As a traditional home remedy, the bark, leaves and skin of the fruit
can all be ground up and mixed with cold water. The reactions that these key ingredients have to each other have been known to aid upset stomachs and relieve cramps.
4. For many years, the marula fruit has been thought to comprise a malaria slowing-down agent.
It was believed that eating the fruit could offset the illness and make the symptoms far easier to deal with. While there is no medical proof to support this, it is still believed that the fruit can keep malaria patients strong.5. Marula oil is one of the most important natural oils available. It is similar to olive oil and healthier for the skin, hair and body than most other cosmetics. Marula oil is also quite rare in the sense that it consists of 28 % protein.
6. The fruits which ripen between December and March have a light yellow skin, with white flesh, rich in vitamin C—about eight times the amount found in an orange—are succulent, tart with a strong and distinctive flavour.Inside is a walnut-sized, thick-walled stone. These stones, when dry, expose the seeds by shedding 2 small circular plugs at one end.
7. The seeds have a delicate nutty flavour and are much sought after, especially by small rodents who know to gnaw exactly where the plugs are located.
8. The seed kernels are high in protein and fat, with a subtle nutty flavour, and constitute an important emergency food. Marula oil, made from the seed kernel, is a delicious additive to meals in Africa. It contains antioxidants and oleic acid.
9. The bark is used both as treatment and a prophylaxis for malaria. An infusion of the inner bark of the marula tree may be applied to scorpion stings and snake bites to alleviate pain. The leaves are chewed on to help indigestion and to treat heartburn.
10. Marula oil, made from the seed kernel, can be used as a type of skin care oil. Products of fruits and the tree are useful in crafts and agriculture. Gums exudates from the stem are mixed with water and soot to make ink by certain tribes in the region.
11. The bark also yields a red-brown dye used in colouring traditional craft ware. The fruit infusion is used to bathe tick-infested livestock. The fruit is regarded as a potent insecticide.
Necklace made of dried nuts is worn as a symbol of love in certain African tribes. Africans believe that necklace made of marula can prevent diarrhea and nosebleeds in children. Essential oils of marula, obtained from the kernel, are used for the manufacture of skin care products.
Marula trees are dioecious, which means they have a specific gender. This fact contributes to the belief among the Venda that bark infusions can be used to determine the gender of an unborn child. If a woman wants a son the male tree is used, and for a daughter, the female tree. If the child of the opposite gender is born, the child is said to be very special as it was able to defy the spirits.
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