The African star apple, locally called Cherry, is in full bloom. You can see the fruits on sales along the highways and roadsides all over the country, especially in the Southern part of Nigeria. Cherry, botanically called Chrysophyllum albidum, belongs to the family of sapoteacea. It is a tropical fruit mainly distributed in the low land rain forest zones and frequently found in villages. It is popularly called Udara in Igbo, Agbalumo in Yoruba, and Otien in Edo.
The arrangement of the seeds are in form of asterisks and the name star apple was coined from this. The chemical compositions includes tannins, flavonoids, terpenoids, proteins, carbohydrates and resins. Cherry is a fruit that is difficult to ignore. While many find the taste not so pleasant, some find the sticky nature of the inner pulp of the fruit unattractive. It is difficult to predict the taste of the cherry fruit until you actually taste it. Unlike fruits like banana, Mango and cashew which taste one can predict, cherry could be sour, sweet or in-between sour and sweet. The health benefits of cherry is what makes it difficult to ignore. Compared with other fruits, cherry is among the healthiest fruits available.
Cherry is a good source of calcium providing about 10% of the amount needed by the body. Calcium lends strength to the bones and teeth and it may also lessen symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Cherry is highly recommended for pregnant women because it reduces salivation and is one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A and C. Infact, the Vitamin C found in the pulp of cherry is said to be higher than the ascorbic content of Orange and guava.
The fruit also provides calories which makes the fruit a good snack. The fruit posseses antioxidant properties which gives the body a better chance of fighting and avoiding heart disease and cancer. The fruit contains fiber which aids digestion and it is also ideal for weight watchers.
While most people seem to be interested only in the cherry fruit, all other parts of the plant is infact very useful. The leaves contains hypoglycemic (lowering blood sugar) properties and anti-platelet activities. The stem can be used as chewing stick as it contains anti-bacterial properties and is a natural remedy for tooth ache, constipation and indigestion. Remember to swallow your spit when using the stem as chewing stick.
The roots and barks when boiled are excellent remedies for cough, yellow fever, high blood pressure and Diabetes. An infusion of the leaves can be used to wash wounds as an antiseptic, and as remedies for diarrhea, and constipation.
In this age when many people are struggling with of obesity, cherry is a good fruit to have around. The fruit is excellent for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and therefore good for losing weight. It is unfortunate that after eating the pulp of the cherry fruit we always throw away the skin. The cherry skin is infact one of the most medicinal part of the cherry plant. I recommend chopping the skin into pieces and then blend a handful in half liter of water. This is one of the best preparation for weight loss and for diabetes. Blending the skin gives you access to the full benefits of the fiber and you will be amazed at the burst of energy you will feel after drinking the solution.
It is worthy of note that the African star apple is one of the endangered plants in Nigeria and Africa. While many of us eat cherry and value its health benefits, we don’t seem to care about the cultivation of this wonderful plant. People are busy harvesting cherry from the wild and there is hardly any interest in cultivation of the plant. The implication is that there will be less and less African star apple plant available and eventually we may wake up one day to find that our precious cherry is no more available to purchase. In this era of unemployment, government need to encourage Nigerian youths to appreciate the wealth generating potentials of agri-business. I call it agri-business because it is not just about subsistence farming but cultivating cash crops to generate wealth. The ministry of Agriculture in every state of the federation should initiate public enlightenment campaigns to encourage agri-business. The drop in oil revenue may well be an excellent opportunity for us to explore alternative sources of income and development.