A beautiful bunch of berries
We walk past Eugenia trees and tread on the carpet of bright pink berries without realizing that we can use them to boost our juices and smoothies with antioxidants and super dooper phytochemicals we normally pay a fortune for. We tend to shy away from wild yellow fruit, believing it to be poisonous and are told that if in doubt, don't eat or even touch strangefruits. I beg to differ, as these days there is plenty of useful information about just about every plant on this planet. I was delighted to discover that my passion for telling people to eat or juice up a handful of Eugenia berries would give them more than just antioxidants. Here are four super-foods I found growing around the neighbourhood in Muizenberg, South Africa.
Eugenia Berries can compete with conventional drugs, so can their seeds!
Traditionally Eugenia berries were used to help manage diabetes, high blood pressure, digestive ailments and so on. We complain about the mess the trees make and toss the fruit onto the compost heap. A popular must-have ingredient these days is Goji berries and they are beneficial but why import something at an exorbitant price before taking a look at what I growing in your vicinity. Nothing could be healthier than a juice made out of a crop of freshly foraged fruit. Some tasty specimens that grow in and around Cape Town are Eugenia, Coprosma, Kei Apple and Natal plum. These fruits are very low in fructose and powered up with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and some unique phytochemicals, including fat burners. Weight for weight, most of them yield 10 x more vitamin C than lemons do.
The bright magenta and purple fruits have a sour, astringent taste. It is a member of the clove family and the buds of the flowers look just like green cloves. They contain the same antimicrobial chemical Eugenol that is used to treat worms. The seed is used in Ayurveda to manage diabetic issues because Unani and Traditional Chinese medicine uses the seeds for digestive ailments. They use the leaves and bark for treating blood pressure and gum disease. On-going research has unearthed a lot of additional health benefits of Eugenia (Jambolana) berries that parallel the effects of drugs used to control cholesterol, diabetes, liver disorders, microbial infections and even cancer.
- Cholesterol and triglycerides: Cholesterol Reduction studies undertaken in 2005 as outlined in the “Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology” concluded that the seed extract lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels as effectively and the drug glibenclamide.
- Liver and stomach: According to a 2009 paper in the “Indian Journal of Pharmacology” Eugenia berry seeds can help to restore normal liver cell regrowth and be used to treat enlarged liver disease. The seeds can be used to treat the over-secretion of gastric acid and pepsin and improve the output of mucin, the protective layer of mucous as effectively as popular medications, but without side effects
- dengue fever: According to the November 2012 issue of the journal “Environmental Science and Pollution Research International” Eugenia extracts could help to control dengue fever as it was able to kill the larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquito as effectively as deltamethrin, a regular chemical insecticide. (Could Eugenia berries also do this to mosquitoes that carry malaria or the ZIKA virus?) Eugenia extracts can also control several drug-resistant bacterial infections, according to test tube studies without harming red blood cells so some more laboratory testing would be a good thing, especially with super bugs taking over.
- Diabetes and stomach acid: The fruit and seeds contain a glycoside called jamboline that blocks the conversion of starch into glucose to control blood sugar levels. Animal studies published in the April 2009 issue of the “Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” showed a drop in blood glucose as well as glycosylated haemoglobin levels after 10 days. (200 milligrams per kg body weight) Levels became normal after 30 days. They found that the seeds could also boost insulin secretion by the pancreas.
- Anti-Cancer Action: Eugenia berries contain anthocyanins, the chemicals that inhibit aromatase activity. This means that estrogen synthesis is controlled and cell proliferation (cancer) is inhibited.
- A 2010 study from the “Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry” concluded that the extract restricted some kinds of breast cancer cells.
- Piles: Eugenia berries eaten with salt every morning are said to be a folk remedy for bleeding piles. The natural acids in the fruit promote the release of digestive enzymes that improve the liver and aid digestion. It has been used in traditional Indian medicine for the management of liver enlargement.
- Diarrhoea and Dysentery: The leaves are rich in gallic and tannic acid and the fruit is astringent. Extracts of the leaves, seeds and fruit and the bark of the Eugenia tree are all used as folk remedies for diarrhoea. Together, they provide a powerful combination of treatments to help control microbial infections associated with diarrhoea.
- Minor infections: The juice can be applied to infestations of ringworm, rashes and bites. It can help to treat sore throats and used as a gargle.
Coprosma health benefits
Gardeners plant a lot of Coprosma trees at the coast because their shiny leathery leaves are resistant to the salty air and they don't wilt in the South-Easter. Originally this species came from New Zealand where it is called Kamaru or Taupata. Their juicy little orange berries are spread all over the place by birds that eat the fruit. Only the female tree bears the fruit that can also be eaten by people, although it seems that they were only occasionally part of the traditional MÄori diet. They are related to coffee beans (Rubiaceae) and have the same thermogenic or fat burning properties due to the presence of chlorogenic. The seeds, although small, can be roasted and can be used as a coffee substitute, yielding a fair amount of caffeine. Coprosma seeds were once roasted ground up by European settlers to make a coffee but their tiny size made it very difficult.
The Coprosma repens was traditionally associated with Maori cleansing rituals to counteract or forestall spiritual or physical contamination or illness. They made decoctions or juiced the berries for kidney troubles, and bladder inflammation. They claim they also ease stomach ache and reduce vomiting and fever.
The Kei Apple
The Kei Apple grows best in dry, sandy soils and is capable of withstanding high levels of salinity so it too thrives along our coastline. In January and February it bears its golden fruits that look like yellow ping-pong balls. The Kei apple fruit has a sharp tangy flavour, similar to that of stewed apricots. It can be eaten as is, if you like sour fruit. (Some people do.) But it is perfect for jams and jellies because of the natural acidity and pectin content.
Kei apples add a delicious refreshing tang to any fruit juice cocktail, especially if you have run out of lemons. It is also rich in Vitamin C and has a high concentration of amino acids. The fresh ripe fruits provide nourishing and refreshing snacks on the run for shepherds and farm workers out in the fields. The sturdy woody stems and branches are covered in wicked thorns, making the Kei Apple a valuable hedge plant, especially for cattle.
The Natal Plum
The Natal plum (Carissa Macrocarpa) is named after Natal, a South African region where it grows. It is locally called num-num and along the streets and roads it is a popular fruit to pick and eat. The bright red fruit when very ripe is soft and has a blander flavour than the firm almost ripe fruit. When you bite into it you notice white latex oozing from the pulp, but it is harmless. The whole fruit including the seeds can be eaten safely. The fruit is high in Vitamin C and has a substantial amount of iron and potassium. A close Relative to the Natal plum is the poisonous Oleander shrub. In this respect, other parts of the plant should not be eaten, so stay away from the leaves, bark and flowers. The star-shaped white flowers look and smell like jasmine and make it a popular garden shrub. Seeds were taken to the USA where the Natal plum now also thrives in California.
The fruit can be cooked to make jam or a fruity sauce that tastes like cranberry sauce but a lot of the white stringy latex is released and sticks around the edges of the pot. This fruit is best eaten raw or added to fruit salads or mashed up as a topping for ice cream. It adds an astringent taste to juices and smoothies where one gets the most out of this unique source of Vitamin C, iron, potassium and antioxidants.
Now just juice it!
The wild fruit can be picked when it is abundant. Their fruit bearing season is short, and is usually at the end of summer for one or two months. Pick as much as you can and freeze it for the months ahead. Add a mixture of the berries to the blender jug along with your other bits and pieces.
I prefer my own water extraction method for juicing for a number of reasons:
- Adding a cup of water to the items placed in the blender jug helps to "wash" out all the valuable phytochemicals - especiaally the Eugenia berry seeds. (The residue from a mincer/masticatory type of juicer are often more nutritious than the juice.) The pip extract is a valuable medicine in its own right.
- With water, it is possible to extract a number of important active chemical components from non-juicy leaves, pips, bark or roots. The water keeps them in suspension, once extracted and the foam produced is evidence that saponins are coming through.
- The residue of leaves, pips and bark are not suitable to leave in smoothies to add to the fibre content. This is why we add water, process the pulp and sieve out all the goodness.
- The juice from most fruits is very concentrated with a high sugar content. We are usually advised to water down fruit juice because of the high fructose content anyway. So rather make use of the water during the juicing process and extract all the goodness from what would otherwise land up on the compost heap.
We can freeze this precious juice in ice cubes. It is very sour, almost like lemon juice so a little goes a long way, especially to jazz up some carrot, beetroot and apple juice. The frozen ice cubes are perfect to add to frozen chopped banana and Amasi for a sensational sloppy Joe type of smoothie. They can also be included in your Budwig treats, when combined with flaxseed oil and cottage cheese. You can read more about this unique protocol, used for cancer patients: