A few years ago I was in Watsomba and came across so many indigenous wild fruits and it took me back to the days when we were growing up and all these fruits were in abundance and you didn’t have to buy them. I took as many of the fruits as possible and also added a few more which I got over the past two years. I have tried to get the fruits straight from the tree so they are as fresh as possible.
The use of indigenous has been used loosely to refer to fruits that are found in the wild in Zimbabwe’s countryside. I would like to thank Evelyn Roe for providing the English and Latin names for the fruits. Whenever I come to Zimbabwe I always look forward to getting my fix of indigenous fruits.
Nhengeni – Ximenia caffra, sour plum in the family Olacaceae. There is another species of Ximenia commonly found, which is Ximenia americana. It has slightly smaller fruits, more orange than red in colour, and its leaves are hairless and blue-green, whereas the one in your photographs has larger, reddish fruits, and hairy green leaves and stems. In Zambia, this red-fruited one is known as the ‘female’ one, and X americana as the ‘male’, but this is not a botanical distinction, more of a cultural one.
Matunduru or Mutunduru – (Garcinia buchananii, granite mangosteen, in the Clusiaceae)
Nhunguru – Flacourtia indica, governor’s plum, in the Flacourtiaceae
Hubva/Tsubvu – Vitez mombassae, in the Lamiaceae. Known as smelly-berry fingerleaf, according to the Zim flora website, www.zimbabweflora.co.zw.
Hubva/Tsubvu fresh from the tree
Masawu – Ziziphus, probably Ziziphus abyssinica, or jujube, in the Rhamnaceae
Nyii – Berchemia discolor, birdplum, also known as ‘African sweets’, in the Rhamnaceae
Nyii straight from the tree in Victoria Falls!
Hacha or Muhacha – Parinari curatellifolia, mobola plum, in the Chrysobalanaceae
Nzambara – Carissa edulis, simple-spined num-num, in the Apocynaceae
Matohwe – Azanza garckeana, snot-apple, in the Malvaceae
Matamba – Strychnos, but not sure which one. Most edible ones are known as monkey-orange in English. Family Strychnaceae. Umkhemeswane in Ndebele.
Tsombori/Tsambati – Lannea edulis in the Anacardiaceae. The Zim flora website calls it ‘wild grape’ but I haven’t heard that name, and it’s not in the grape family.
Mususu – Looks like Lantana camara to me. A seriously invasive plant introduced to South Africa over a hundred years ago and spreading rampantly throughout the southern hemisphere. There are native Lantana species, but I don’t think this is one. Just known as lantana in English. Family Verbenaceae.
Hute or Mukute – Syzygium cordatum, waterberry, in the Myrtaceae.
Madhorofiya/Madhorosiya – Opuntia, prickly-pear. Cactaceae. Introduced to Africa long ago. Sometimes categorised as invasive. There are no native cacti species in Africa.
Masekesa – Piliostigma thonningii, monkey-bread, in the Caesalpinioideae section of the Fabaceae family (legumes)
Some are also known by different names in the different regions. If you have any additional info including descriptions of the fruits, taste, seasons, eating instructions etc please feel free to post in the comments. You can also checkout Zimbabwean Tropical fruits and Zim Flora for more resources on flora in Zimbabwe.
Evelyn Roe studied Botany at the University of Edinburgh and now work as a researcher with the North-West Naturalists’ Society of Zambia, which is based in Livingstone. I also have 16 years’ experience teaching biology, in the UK and Botswana. One of my first projects in Zambia was a floristic survey at the Victoria Falls on behalf of NHCC. She has published Wild Flowers of the Victoria Falls Area with Helen Pickering in 200