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.