Although normally consumed out of hand, sweet detars are also processed in different localized ways. In northern Nigeria, to mention just one locale, they are mixed with other fruits,3 and boiled, strained, and concentrated into a sweetmeat resembling fruit leather. In Sierra Leone, they are made into refreshing drinks. One interesting feature: if a ripe fruit dries out, it can be revived by a soak in sugar water—the result being eaten as if it were freshly picked and the liquid being used separately as a fruity drink.

Sweet detar is an outstanding source of vitamin C—perhaps the finest of all. In 1988, researchers studying 29 fresh fruits consumed in Senegal discovered it to be the richest in vitamin C (up to 1,180 mg per 100 g). Nothing else came close.4 One analysis of the pulp showed it about half sugar, with about 20 percent fiber, 4 percent protein, and 2 percent fats (on a dry-weight basis).5

Botanically speaking, this species, a legume, is related to tamarind. It produces equally vast quantities of fruit—indeed, the tree sometimes becomes almost enshrouded in dangling pods. Robust and resilient, it is a candidate for reforestation purposes. Although leguminous, it is probably not nitrogen fixing. Like tamarind, carob, and honey locust, it belongs to the Caesalpinioideae, a subfamily whose species usually possess few or no nodules, let alone rhizobial bacteria. Nevertheless, it survives in harsh and infertile sites and it tolerates some drought and much heat.

All in all, sweet detars seem likely to make good backyard-, village-, and street trees, providing welcome shade and copious food. Among its other useful outputs are the following:

Seeds The purple-brown, sweetly scented seeds have edible kernels. To extract those kernels, the fruit is broken open, the seeds are boiled for an hour, and their seedcoats removed. The resulting naked kernels are normally pounded into powder. In part of southern Nigeria this ofo flour is commonly added to egusi soup or cooked separately with leafy vegetables.6 It is notably nutritious, having about 12 percent of a protein that is rich in the amino acids lysine and tryptophan.


Notably jackal berry (see Ebony chapter) and black plum (Chocolate Berries chapter).


It was followed by baobab at 165 mg per 100 g (see Baobab), guava (156 mg), and cashew (150 mg); both guava and cashew are tropical-American in origin. Diop, P.A., D. Franck, P. Grimm, and C. Hasselmann. 1988. High-performance liquid chromatographic determination of vitamin C in fresh fruits from West Africa. J. Food Compos Anal. 1(3):265-269. It should be noted, however, that detars vary in their vitamin C content, depending on their level of sourness, with some exceeding 1,200 mg per 100 g.


Favier, J-C., J. Ireland-Ripert, C. Toquc, and M. Feinberg. 1999. Répertoire Général Des Aliments: table de composition (2nd ed.). Le Centre Informatique sur la Qualité des Aliments (CIQUAL), Maisons-Alfort cedex, France.


It is eaten notably with leaves of Pterocarpus, tree legumes that produce tasty leaves and some of the world’s great timbers. Egusi and egusi soup are dealt with in the companion volume on African vegetables.

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