Natal Mahogany seed milk and its preparation

Natal Mahogany (Trichilia emetica) trees have got a dense canopy of dark green, glossy leaves, and a round outer shape of the tree silhouette. They preferably grow in moist places and riparian forests along drainage lines. Natal Mahogany is easy to spot amongst other trees due to its dark green and densely foliated roundish shape.

Natal Mahogany seeds

During February the seeds are ripening and will be released from the pods. The seed is yellowish-greenish in color with an oil content of about 68% and surrounded by a red aril with a black spot, which has an oil content between 14 – 51%. The skinned seed is edible (both raw and cooked) and the aril is said to be poisonous. Further studies will be necessary about the poisonous properties, as from this aril, so-called Mafuri-oil is extracted, which is edible; and from the kernel so-called Mafuri-butter, which is also not poisonous, but too bitter to eat.

Producing milk from Natal Mahogany seeds

Mr. Masilo Malatji, a BaPedi from the Phalaborwa area, and our Swazi cook were both very keen to produce ‘milk’ from the ripe Natal Mahogany seeds. Masilo liked to drink the milk as it was, and the Swazi cook used the milk for cooking.

Production of seed milk was easy. In a 0.5-liter water bottle, whole seeds were filled up to a height of about 1/5th of the bottle. Then it will be filled up with water to half the bottle capacity. The bottle was closed and vigorously shaken for about 20 minutes until a liquid formed, which looked like milk. This is an emulsion of fine droplets of Natal Mahogany seed oil in water. Due to the high level of shaking force and fine droplets remaining suspended, this milky-looking liquid was very stable. Parts of the seed and seed coverings remained in the emulsion, and we drank the milk without any solids. The taste was slightly sweet and tasted not like cow milk, but more like water. There was no kind of ill effect felt due to the arils in the emulsion.

Lessons learned from preparing Natal Mahogany seed milk

  • During February, the seeds are ripening
  • 20% quantity of whole seeds and 50% water in a certain capacity bottle are the ingredients for preparing the milk
  • The bottle has to be vigorously shaken for about 20 minutes. This extracts suspended fine oil bubbles in the water
  • The filtered, milky liquid can be drunk raw or used as a basis for cooking maize, vegetables, or stews.

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