Botanical Name: Irvingia gabonensis
Species: I. gabonensis
*Irvingia barteri Hook.f.
*Irvingia caerulea Tiegh.
*Irvingia duparquetii Tiegh.
*Irvingia erecta Tiegh.
*Irvingia fusca Tiegh.
*Irvingia griffonii Tiegh.
*Irvingia hookeriana Tiegh.
*Irvingia laeta Tiegh.
*Irvingia pauciflora Tiegh.
*Irvingia platycarpa Tiegh.
*Irvingia tenuifolia Hook.f.
*Irvingia velutina Tiegh.
Common Names: Wild mango, African mango, Bush mango, Dika, Odika, Modika, Oro, Andok or Ogbono.
Habitat: Irvingia gabonensis is native to Tropical Africa – Nigeria to Central African Republic, south to Congo, DR Congo and Angola. It grows in the Evergreen dense, moist, lowland rain-forest.
Irvingia gabonensis is an evergreen Tree growing straight, up to a height of 40 m (130 ft) and 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in diameter. It has buttresses to a height of 3 m (9.8 ft). The outer bark is smooth to scaly with grey to yellow-grey color. The crown is evergreen, spherical and dense. Leaves are elliptic, one margin is often a little rounder than the other, acuminate, dark green and glossy on the upside. Flowers are yellow to greenish-white in small panicles. The flowers are bisexual. The fruit is nearly spherical, green when ripe with a bright orange pulp. The stone is woody and contains one seed. Seedling germinates epigeally.
Until some years ago, 90% of dika products were harvested from scattered, wild trees. Dika trees were not cultivated systematically, because it was believed, that it takes up to 15 years until a tree bears fruit. Although they were not planted, their occurrence is high because they were also rarely lumbered. In a plantation using marcots (air-layering plants), flower production was observed two to four years after planting. Germination from seeds is low and when they are not handled carefully, most fail. The seeds are mostly extracted by breaking them by hand
Irvingia gabonensis bears edible mango-like fruits, and are especially valued for their fat- and protein-rich nuts. Edible portion: Seeds, Fruit, Kernels, Leaves, Bark – drink. Seed – cooked. In season, the fallen fruits are collected in the forest and stacked till the pulp has rotted away. The nuts are opened and the cotyledons removed and dried. These cotyledons are a common item of market produce and are used in soups and as a food flavouring. They are said to have a pleasant taste with a lingering slight bitterness. The seeds are 25 – 38 mm long, 17 – 27 mm wide, 8 – 12 mm thick; the endosperm is almost non-existent. The principal domestic use of the seed is for the preparation of odika, or dika bread, also known as Gabon chocolate. For this the cotyledons are ground and heated in a pot that is lined with banana leaves in order to melt the fat, and then left to cool. The resultant grey-brown greasy mass is dika bread. It has a slightly bitter and astringent taste with a more or less aromatic odour. Pepper and other spices may be added, and it may perhaps be subjected to wood smoke. The end product may be made up into cylindrical packets wrapped in a basket-like or leaf-wrapping. It can be kept for a long time without going off and it is used as a food-seasoner. An alternative method of preparation, more akin to the making of vegetable butters, is to take the fresh or stored cotyledons and pound them into a paste. A third preparation, known in Gabon as ov?ke, is to soak the kernels for 15 – 20 days till soft and then to knead them by hand into a cheese-like paste. A fourth practice is known in Sierra Leone, in which the cotyledons are dried and ground to a brown ‘flour’ in which form it can be stored for use as an additive to food as and when required. The kernel is an important source of vegetable oil. There is a wide variation in quantity and composition of the oil; even so the seeds are considered a suitable source of industrial and edible oils. Total fat content has been recorded as 54 – 68%. The crude dika paste yields on heating or boiling 70 – 80% of a pale yellow or nearly white solid fat, dika butter, which has qualities comparable with cacao-butter, and is, in fact, a possible adulterant or substitute for the latter in chocolate manufacture. Freed from its slight odour it can also be regarded as suitable for margarine manufacture. The yellow, fibrous fruit looks somewhat like a small mango and has a similar flavour. The fruit pulp is palatable and can be used for a fruit drink and for jam production. The fruit is variable, with special forms. The pulp of some trees is edible with a turpentine flavour, and of others inedible, bitter and acrid. The edible ones are a good source of vitamins. The ellipsoidal to cylindrical fruit is 40 – 65mm long, 42 – 64mm wide, 34 – 60mm thick, smooth, green at maturity; mesocarp bright orange, soft and juicy with few weak fibres.
The bark has a bitter taste and has the usual usages of bitter barks in Africa. It is used as a purgative for treating gastro-intestinal and liver conditions; sterility; hernias; and urethral discharge. It is considered by some to be a powerful aphrodisiac and to be beneficial in cases of senility. It is used in an enema, or added to a baked banana in order to relieve diarrhoea and dysentery. Applied externally, it is ground up with water for rubbing on to the body for easing pains[332 ]. It is used in mouth-washes for relieving toothache, made into a poultice and applied to sores and wounds. Tannin has been reported present in both the bark and the roots, also a strong presence of alkaloid in the bark, though none in the roots.
Agroforestry Uses: The tree is commonly preserved on farms when woodland is cleared in order to provide shade for crops, especially cocoa and coffee. Other Uses: A wax has been extracted from the plant which has been found useful as an adjunct in making medicinal tablets. Both the bark and the roots contain tannins. The fruit pulp is used to prepare a black dye for cloth The fat extracted from the seed is suitable for soap-making and other industrial uses. The sap-wood is light brown, the heart-wood a slightly darker or greenish-brown. The wood is tough, very heavy, very hard, durable, immune to termite attack but rather difficult to split. It has a fine moderately close grain and a good polished finish can be achieved. It is not easy to cut, which limits its usefulness for native people who often only have simple implements. Its weight is said to preclude it from all but the most rugged construction-work, e.g., for railway-ties, house building, etc. It is used for street paving. Canoes can be made from the trunk, and pestles for yam-mortars. Tests for paper manufacture have shown cellulose content 48 .8%, fibre length 1.5 mm, and the resultant dark brown paper to be inferior, rather weak and soft, and not bleachable.
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