Sclerocarya birrea (marula, Oshiwambo
omugongo) is by far the most important indigenous tree in Central-Northern Namibia, so it is on Sustainche™ Farm. During this time of the year in winter, the marula tree stands leafless for several months and it is always astonishing to observe that new leafs appear even before the first rain arrives. Rich in protein and high in vitamin C, the fruit and nuts of the marula tree have allowed people to make permanent settlements throughout Southern Africa. Marula-growing areas are traditionally highly preferred sites for settlement.
This marula episode is for sure a ‘female’s story’. This is not only because eight out of ten trees in Northern Namibia are estimated to be ‘female’. Sclerocarya birrea is differentiated in ‘male’ and ‘female’ trees. No, it is also because marula trees on Sustainche™ Farm as well as harvesting and processing of the fruits are exclusively Meme Tresia’s domain ! Owambo women have long prized marula for its remarkable qualities and have used it in a variety of ways for generations.
A brew made from the bark has been traditionally administered as a cleansing ritual prior to marriage. The bark of the Marula tree is also traditionally utilized medicinally to treat diarrhoea, diabetes, fever and malaria, and the roots are used to treat sore eyes. The leaves are thought to make a relish and the hard wood provides excellent kitchen utensils.
About the size of a plum with a leathery skin that is butter yellow when ripe, the fruit of the marula tree (Oshiwambo eengongo) has a scented juicy white flesh that clings to a hard brown kernel. Marula fruit is eaten raw and is used for making alcoholic and non-alcoholic marula drinks. The kernels (Oshiwambo omahuku) are either eaten raw or roasted and have a delicious nut taste. Inside the kernel are two or three seeds that are so rich in oil that a simple squeeze of the hand can release a significant amount. Marula kernels are dried in the hot Namibian sun and then cracked open to extract the oil. For the purpose of efficiently extracting oil (ondjove) for cooking and cosmetic use, Meme Tresia utilizes the mortar (oshini) inserted in the hard floor of the pounding room and the heavy pounding pole or pestle (omushi).
Marula oil (also called ‘Owambo Gold’) is extremely rich in unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and oleic acid, which are essential for the preservation of healthy human skin. Oils derived from marula are easily absorbed into the skin and naturally soften, nourish and revitalize it, which makes marula oils ideal for massage application. Being ten times more resistant to oxidation than olive oil, it is one of the most stable natural oils in the world.
During your visit to Sustainche Farm™ in Northern Namibia enjoy your traditional Owambo Chicken dish topped with a few drops of Meme Tresia’s home-made marula oil
P.S.: If you want to know even more about marula we can recommend an interesting website http://www.marula.org.za/.