Oshakati, Namibia. Throughout much of Africa marula fruits and seeds are in high demand. In some regions, the tree ranks as a major food supplier. The large and spreading tree is treasured for its shade and beauty, not to mention its foodstuffs. This is an exceptionally drought resistant species, and its resistance to heat, harsh sunlight, and difficult conditions is legendary (Klaus Fleissner)

It grows with great vigor. It thrives under exceptional heat. And it tolerates some of the most inhospitable terrain known to horticulture.

Marula fruits are not picked: they harvest themselves by conveniently falling off while still green and hard. They hit the ground without bruising, and subsequently ripen within about five days. It is common for farmers to build elaborate fences or to pile thorny branches around their trees to keep animals from reaching the fruits first.

Although when fully ripe the pulp turns pleasantly sweet-and-sour— something like an orange—most of the fruits tend to be tart. Some marulas come with a slight turpentine aftertaste, a feature not universally admired. The scent is applelike and rather pleasant, but can become overpowering where there are large quantities of over-ripe fruits.

But few of these fruits are eaten raw. Most end up in various kinds of drinks. Adding the juice to water, for instance, produces a refreshing squash. If set aside for a few days this liquid ferments into a hard cider. Although both tasty and nutritious, the result can be also highly intoxicating. Marula-juice beverages—both soft and hard—have been commercialized in South Africa. The amounts produced are surprising (at least considering that this is a “lost” crop and as-yet is little grown in organized production). In a recent year, for instance, about 500 tons of marulas were commercially processed for juice and 2,000 tons for liqueur just in South Africa. Beyond drinks, the

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