Investigation of the Marula fruit ripening process Correlation between quality aspects and local knowledge of Marula fruit
Marula fruits, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich). Hochst., are consumed in Africa where they are appreciated for their nutritional value, refreshing flavour and as a product of trade. Traditional applications include food and beverage, cosmetic, medicinal and spiritual use. The wide range of applications have brought this species to the attention of industry, where unique selling points are based around the nutritional profile, flavour characteristics and it’s African origin.
In this study fresh fruit samples from 40 trees in Northern Namibia were used to investigate the ripening process based on typical fruit quality control parameters as well as phytochemical analysis. In addition, local knowledge about the Marula fruit was studied thorough interviews of the tree owners. A close correlation was observed between harvester determination of ripeness and the analytical results using laboratory equipment. Harvesters identified fruits of optimum ripeness for processing based on colour, firmness and flavour. The results of this study provide the basis for industrial applications of the fruit, along with business development opportunities for harvesters and the communities involved.
Marula, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich). Hochst., is one of the most highly valued indigenous trees of Southern Africa and has received attention in terms of domestication and commercialization (1). Industry attention has been captured to the wide range of applications including food and beverage, cosmetic, medicinal and cultural.
Female trees produce fleshy plum-sized fruits which abscise before ripening when the fruits are green and firm. The ripe fruits are succulent with a thick yellow peel and a translucent, white, fibrous and juice filled flesh. The flesh and kernel are nutritious and commonly consumed in Africa (1-2). The bark, roots and leaves are used for their medicinal properties and the kernel oil is used for cooking and is found in cosmetic and personal care products around the world. Marula trees have a strong cultural significance and play a central role in the Marula season celebrations (Picture 1) (3). Marula wine and beer are prepared from the fermented fruits and can be further distilled to produce a Marula liqueur (4-6).
Commercial interest in developing value-added products from exotics fruits, like Marula, ...