Time for a little sourness?

After all the sweetness of  Christmas and new year, I think it’s time for a little sour….

The sour plum trees on our farm are now fruiting.  When I say sour, it’s probably the  sourest thing I have ever tasted (and that includes all the crazy sour sweets available these days).  These fruit are chock-full of vitamin C and are enjoyed by birds and animals alike – how the heck they don’t have a sour attack each time they bite one I will never understand.  I have heard that it makes a divine jam or jelly.  I think that may be the only way I would be able to eat this fruit – with a ton of sugar in jam or jelly.  I am always looking for ways to use the natural plants around us on the farm.

The large sour plum (ximenia caffra) is a small tree or shrub with many traditional uses and colourful fruit which attract baboons, fruit-eating birds and various butterflies. The thinly fleshy, oval, attractive fruit are a glossy deep red with white-ish speckles. The larvae of various butterflies including the Natal bar, Silvery bar, Bowker’s sapphire, Saffron sapphire, Brown playboy and Bush scarlet butterfly feed on the leaves of this tree.

Ripe fruit has a vitamin C content of 27%, is high in potassium and contains protein. The seed has a 65% oil content. Fruits have a refreshing (ha right…) sour taste, best eaten when slightly overripe, but can also be used for making jam, dessert and jelly. They can be added to porridge. Oil from the seed is used to soften human skins and for softening animal hides. It is also used for lamps. The nuts are also eaten.

A decoction from the leaves is used as a wash to soothe inflamed eyes. Infusions of the roots are used as a remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea and together with the leaves are taken for abdominal pain and bilharziasis. Powdered roots are applied to sores to speed up healing; used in soup, and in beer as an aphrodisiac. Powdered dried leaves are taken orally for fever and infertility, and extracts of the leaves are used as a gargle for tonsillitis, and as a vermifuge. Porridge is made using a decoction of the roots, and eaten once a day for nausea in pregnancy; the root decoction is also taken for infertility.

I think, from all these uses, I may be able to cope with making the fruit into jam and maybe eating the seed (nut) – I will have to give it a try.




7 thoughts on “Time for a little sourness?

  1. Most interesting. I feel that too often only the familiar fruits are used, and not the indigenous ones which usually have great medicinal qualities. Good luck with the process. Perhaps you could use Stevia to sweeten it….


    • I agree with you :). I have tasted stevia before – I am not too sure if I like it really (after taste) – although its very sweetness would definitely work against the tartness of the fruit.


  2. Hello again! Just getting caught up on your posts. You’ve been busy. This week nearly slipped by me (the first full week at work in three and too many things to do at once). The plums look wonderful. We have a plum that grows wild here in New Jersey, along beaches in small shrubby plants, that is prized for making jams as well. I only recently, and too late for this picking season, learned that they were edible.

    Thank you for offering to help with questions as I plan my South Africa trip!! I am looking for you on FB but haven’t sorted you out of the several folks who share your name. 🙂


  3. Hi Jackie,
    I am desperately looking to source some sour plums for a research project down in Stellenbosch. Any chance you could help please? It’s not exactly something that is easy to get hold of it seems.
    Of course I will come and collect and pay any costs involved, I just need to get my hands on a bucket full of these sour plums.
    Any help would be much appreciated!


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