These fruits are very common in Nigeria and they are presently in season.
Botanically known as Dialium guineense, these tropical fruits belong to the Leguminosae family, and are called Black Velvet Tamarind.
These small, conspicuous grape-sized edible fruits with brown or black hard inedible shells are relished by children and many adults.
They are also known as Velvet Tamarind and many other names like “Licky – Licky”, African velvet tamarind, wonder fruits, and a host of others.
In Nigeria, these fruits are known as Awin in Yoruba language, Icheku in Igbo and Tsamiyar kurm in the Hausa language.
In West Africa, where there are about 16 countries, these black velvet tamarind can be found in countries like Ghana where they are known as Yoyi.
In Togo, the fruits are called atchethewh, but in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, they are called “Veludo”.
Some people think they are vegetables, but they are fruits and they are usually clustered in bunches.
Each fruit typically has one hard, flat, round, black or brown seed enclosed in a thick, orange coloured pulpy silky cover.
The enclosed black or brown seed looks like a watermelon seed and looks shiny and well coated with a thin layer of starch.
The pulpy part is edible and can either be eaten raw or soaked in water and taken as a vitamin c enriched beverage.
Nutritional value & health benefits
- Black velvet tamarind are fruits that are rich in vitamins including thiamin, vitamin A, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and most importantly vitamin C.
- The fruits have plenty of antioxidants that help to fight free radicals in the body.
- The vitamins enclosed in the fruits equally help the proper functioning of enzyme metabolism in the body.
- The pulpy edible part of velvet tamarind is said to be high in ascorbic acid and this makes them to be seen as a good anti-scurvy vitamin, very suitable for the treatment of scurvy and wounds:
- Reports say the tender leaves of velvet tamarind when squeezed and applied on wounds, can stimulate the growth of healthy skin and protect wounds against germs and moisture.
- They contain plenty of inorganic irons and these are vital for red blood cell production and even serve as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
- Hmmm, the sticky pulp is said to be a rich source of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) or dietary-fiber such as gums, hemicelluloses, mucilage, pectin, and tannins.
- A 100 g of these fruity pulps is said to provide 5.1 or over 13 percent of dietary fiber.
- This is because the dietary fiber in the food increases easy bowel movements and this ultimately helps to prevent constipation.
- The fiber also binds to toxins in the food and thus helps to protect the colon mucus membrane from cancer-causing chemicals.
- Eating these fruits can help in the treatment of Ulcer. Reports say the leaf extract of velvet tamarind has the ability to increase gastric mucus secretion and thus can be a remedy for gastric ulcers.
- Consuming awin can also help in the prevention of hypertension.
- This is owing to the fact that the leaves of the tree are said to be highly diuretic and easily promote the production of urine, thus, making it easier for the heart to pump blood hence, reducing the risk of hypertension.
- The fruits are rich in minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
- It is, however, pertinent to note that potassium remains an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
- According to research, the leaf extract can help to tackle malaria. This is because the extract can comfortably hinder the growth of plasmodium falciparum which causes malaria therefore, taking a decoction can cure malaria.
So, get ready to eat plenty of black velvet tamarind!