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Five fruits you've never heard of that are helping to end hunger

From Monkey Oranges to Tsamma Melon little-known fruits can provide nutritious food to help alleviate hunger and poverty.

By Nourishing the Planet / October 5, 2011

Ackee fruit is found in the tropical forests of West Africa. It has a creamy texture and a mild flavor. The fruit is commonly eaten with meat dishes as a side dish and is very nutritious.

Rolf W. Hapke/Chromorange/picture-alliance/Newscom/File

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No single fruit can put an end to hunger. But worldwide there are many different fruits and vegetables that are helping to improve nutrition and diets, while increasing incomes and improving livelihoods.

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Today, Nourishing the Planet features five fruits that you have likely never heard of that are helping to alleviate hunger and poverty.

1. Monkey Oranges: Similar in shape and size to apple, pear, and orange trees, Monkey Oranges are a highly coveted African wild fruit tree, and farmers will often leave them standing when clearing land for cultivation of field crops.

Best Way to Eat It: It is traditionally eaten raw, or made into jam, juice, or fruit wine. The grapefruit-sized fruit tends to be yellow, orange, or brown, and emits a sweet scent with a touch of clove. They are known for their delicious sweet and sour flavor and are rich in vitamin C and in B vitamins.

Monkey Oranges in Action: Monkey oranges are an important indigenous African resource that support farmers in times of crop failure, providing a supplemental food in rural areas. By adding them to crop fields, gardens, parks, fence lines, and street sides they can boost food security and nutrition. They are a source of shade and erosion protection, and the wood is commonly used for firewood, tool handles, and building poles.

2. Ackee: The ackee tree (Blighia sapida) is indigenous to the tropical forests of West Africa. Although it is not popularly eaten there, it is cultivated in the region for several nonfood uses: Immature fruits are used to make soap; the wood from the tree is termite resistant and used for building; extracts from the poisonous seeds are taken to treat parasites and are sometimes used as a fish poison; topical ointment made from crushed ackee leaves is applied to the skin to treat headaches and ulcers. And the Ackee leaves are also good as a fodder for goats.

Best Way to Eat It: Ackee fruit has a creamy texture and a mild flavor. It is commonly eaten with meat dishes as a side vegetable. It is very nutritious, high in fatty acids and rich in protein, potassium, iron, and Vitamin C. But be careful, both the skin and seeds of the ackee are poisonous. They contain toxic hypoglycins levels and can even be fatal. Care must be taken in harvesting the fruit at the right time and in the preparation of an ackee dish.

Ackee in Action: In tropical West Africa – where ackee trees are indigenous, well-adapted, and utilized for other purposes – the safe preparation and nutritious value of the ackee arils supports food security and rural incomes.

3. Wild Ethiopian Coffee: Of the two globally cultivated coffee species (Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora) – commonly known as Arabica and Robusta– Arabica is the most admired and dominates 70 percent of all coffee production. The species naturally occurs exclusively in the isolated highland forests of southern Ethiopia.

Best Way to Eat It: For thousands of years, people living in the Ethiopian highlands have traditionally been roasting coffee berries and grinding them in a mortar. Coffee is often served with hot water and sugar to guests as part of a ritual of hospitality and respect.

Wild Ethiopian Coffee in Action: In 2007, Slow Food International started training 64 gatherers in Herenna, Ethiopia, on improved harvesting and drying techniques. Gatherers are also trained in organizational and business skills. The goal is to help locals produce a consistent, high-quality product that can then be marketed worldwide as a specialty product. The added economic value will not only improve the incomes of local people, it could also help slow deforestation as gatherers become better stewards to preserve their product.

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