Chocolate berry and other edible S. African Vitex species
Here’s an interesting article about a range of edible/useful Vitex species from South and West Africa… The photo at the bottom of this post is from the original article for visual reference.
Feasting on chocolate berries
(From The Southern Times) “Chocolate berry” has in the past referred only to Vitex payos, but for present purposes, I have used the name to refer collectively to the various African Vitex species with promise as fruit trees.
It is not a perfect match, given that botanically speaking the fruits are not berries but drupes.
Around Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, you get Vitex isotjensis, Vitex mombassae and Vitex payos. The last is the best. It is sold in the markets and is among the most popular indigenous fruits.
Everyone likes having a chocolate berry tree around, and people gather the seeds for planting.
The 70 species include some specimens with exceptional promise in agro-forestry and rural reforestation.
Indeed, those might become standard components in the species mix employed to stabilise eroding slopes and abandoned wastelands across much of the continent.
Among other advantages is their longevity.
These trees live long and are rarely cut down irresponsibly. Even scraggly wild specimens are protected by societal rules and regulations.
Almost everyone — not to mention the environment — benefits from chocolate-berry trees.
Largely unknown beyond Africa, these particular Vitex species, from the mint family (Labiatae), are essentially unknown to science too.
But they are so useful that without them life would be even harder in many places between Senegal and South Africa.
Villagers rely on these trees for much more than just fruits.
They boil and eat the young leaves like spinach. They depend on the foliage to keep their livestock from starving during the long and trying months when the grass is gone. They use the twigs as chew sticks to clean their teeth. And they extract medicines from the trees.
Read full article at The Southern Times (South Africa)