Milkplum (Stamvrug) fruits grow directly out of the tree trunk
Milkplum (Englerophytum magalismontanum (Sond.) T.D.Penn).
Common names: (Afr) Stamvrug. (Eng) Milkplum, Wild plum. (isiZulu) Amanumbela. (Northern Sotho) Mohlatswa. (siSwati) UmNumbela. (Tshivenda) Munombelo. (Xitsonga) Nombhela. Old name: Bequaertiodendron magalismontanum
Milkplum is widely distributed from Central Africa to Botswana and Eastern parts of South Africa. They prefer to grow on stony outcrops and rocky hills.
Grows as a dense shrub to a small evergreen tree, up to around 8m tall. Under favorable conditions, it can even grow up to 15m tall with a trunk diameter of 85cm.
The singular leaves are borne relatively far apart, usually spirally positioned. The leaves are ellipsoidal, smooth, and dark green in color with a brown to reddish-brown color, below slightly felt like. The old leaves discolor and fall off. The young twigs and petioles are brown and felt like. Flowers are small with a white core and light brown sepals borne in clusters on the stems.
The fruits are oval in shape, about 2.5cm / 1’’ long and 1.5-2cm / 3/4’’ in diameter with a sharp tip at one end and lasting sepals at the base section. When ripe, they are orange to deep red and encased by a slightly felt-like rind. The fruit rind is thick with a fruit flesh full of milky sap encasing one, sometimes two seeds. Like fig fruits and Num-Num, milkplum (Stamvrug-) fruits are very edible despite of extruding this white, milky latex. The fruits are ripening between December to February. Not all at the same time, but green and ripe fruits will be found on the same tree. The ripe fruit according to Van Wyk et al. (2000) has a Vitamin C content of 40mg per 100g.
A detailed description of milkplum trees can be found at this link.
The ripe fruit has got a distinctive sweet and delicious taste. Locals collect the ripe fruits, squeeze them out in water and use this liquid for cooking maize porridge in it. From the fruit, mainly jam will be cooked that reminds one of plum jam. Which led to its English name. And also, a strong alcoholic local drink is distilled – called Mampoer. The seeds are not eaten and said to be poisonous.
Lessons learned from milkplum / stamvrug fruits:
- Milkplum trees can be mainly found on rocky outcrops and quartzite ridges
- The fruits grow in clusters directly out of the tree trunk.
- They contain a milky white latex, which is not poisonous at all.
- From December to February, there are always both ripe / orange-red and unripe / green fruits on the same tree.
- When cooking jam from the fruits, it will look and taste similar to plum jam
- Local farmers distill a strong alcoholic drink from the fruits, called Mampoer.