Throughout much of tropical Africa the tree called detar (Detarium senegalense J. Gmelin)1 is common and its rounded pods are well known. It occurs in two types. The so-called forest type is tall (to 40 m) and has reddish pods whose yellow pulp tends toward bitter and inedible. The so-called savanna type is much smaller (5-10 m) with brownish pods whose greenish pulp makes good eating. At first sight fruits of the latter type look like apricots, but physically they are more like tamarinds with a crisp shell enclosing a rather flaky pulp and a single seed. These are what are known as “sweet detars.”2

As with tamarinds (see part 1 of this volume), sweet detars are especially enjoyed in West Africa. Most are eaten fresh, but some are dried in the sun and sold in markets. Although sweet detars are today eaten largely by children, they have potential throughout society. The hard shell and dry pulp give them an exceptional shelf life and the sweet-and-sour flavor appeals to all palates.


The savanna form is these days usually classified as a separate species, Detarium microcarpum Guillemin & Perrottet, which we treat jointly here. For taxonomic details see Berhaut, J. 1967. Flore du Sénégal. 2d ed. Clairafrique, Dakar.. In this treatment, D. senegalense has 10-13 leaflets; foliate stipules; 15-25 translucid points between 2 lateral veins; and a tomentatious calyx. By contrast, D. microcarpum has 7-10 leaflets; 40-50 translucid points between 2 lateral veins; and a glabrous or glaborescent calyx. (See also Lock, J.M. 1989. Legumes of Africa: a Check List. Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.)


 Other English common names include tallow tree, dattock, and dittock. Although sweet detar is little known to science, the tree and its fruit have an abundance of names in languages across western Africa. The following list is far from inclusive. Arabic: abu leita, abu leila; Amharic: gudi; English: sweet detar, sweet dattock (D. microcarpum), tallow tree (D. senegalense); French: détar, ditax, detah de Sénégal, niey datah, datah ney, boiré; Wolof: ditah (D. senegalense); dank (D. microcarpum); daha, dak, detax, detakh, ditakh, ditarh, wanta; Serer: ndoy (D. microcarpum); Bambara: bodo (D. microcarpum); Mossi: kaguédéga (D. microcarpum); Hausa: tsada (D. microcarpum);Igbo: ofo (D. microcarpum);Hausa: taura (D. microcarpum); Kanuri: gatapo (D. microcarpum); Nupe: gungorochi (D. microcarpum); Tiv: agashidam (D. microcarpum); Jola: bugungut, butchanjack, boubounkoute, fulibehen, mounhayona; Mandika: bodo, mamboda, taba, taleo, tallo saranokke, woko; Fula: boto, boto-burareh, botomel, dile, karkehi, konkehi, mobdey

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement