Courbonia virgata – Famine Foods

Courbonia virgata


Sudan (southern), Uganda (northern), Kenya (northeastern), French Equatorial Africa (Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad): fruit eaten during times of famine, after soaking in running water for several days, and then boiling in water to which a little soda has been added.

Additional Information

Name Authority:
A. Brongn.
Arabic (Sudan, Nuba Mountain area): Kordale. Dinka (south of Shambe): Amyok, Mayook
Chemical composition: the root of this plant contains powerfully toxic tetramethylammonium nitrate - ca. 0.25g of the base taken orally being lethal for adult humans. The kernel of the fruit contains the same toxic element as the root but in lower proportions. The leaching practices described above may reflect local awareness of the toxic properties of the root as well as possible reactions to ingestion of the fruit. The fruit also contains two crystalline, water-soluble, isomeric compounds: cis- and trans-3-Hydroxystachydrine. These compounds form approximately 10% of the dry weight of the husks of the fruit. One of the compounds was also isolated from kernels, but neither compound was found in the root.

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