Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Name this Fruit

The thing about Ghana is that there are so many kinds of fruit here that are called by the local names and many of us don't know what the English/scientific names are.
Today I had what we call alasa. It is a small oval shaped fruit almost the size of a lemon (not the gigantic genetically modified kind you find in the US). It's yellowish-orange on the outside. The inside is fleshy, peach-orange coloured. There are usually 3-4 seeds inside that are black and measure about an inch and kids use it to play games. The flesh tastes slightly sour and if you chew it for a couple minutes, it turns into gum which you continue chewing for the rest of the day like real chewing gum!

I have done preliminary searches online and what I've found is a tropical fruit from Brazil called an abiu. The family is Sapotaceae. It is also know as yellow star apple in Trinidad. Apparently when it's not ripe, the fruit is gelatinous and astrigent. The only thing is that this fruit is apparently sweet when ripe. So then, the question is, is alasa abiu and if so, have we been eating the unripe fruit all this time?




6/26/2013 Addendum: Ijust wanted to reflect that from the comments down below, what the Ga call alasa is NOT the abiu/yellow star apple, Pouteria caimito but instead the white star apple, Chrysophyllum albidum, also known as the African star apple. It is also in the Sapotaceae family. 

Someone asked for it's nutritional analysis in the comments section. If you have access to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, you might be able to access this 1982 Nigerian article, Nutritional value & mineral contents of Chrysophyllum albidum fruit. This other scientific article states that it has 100 times the vitamin C levels of an orange. Impressive.

People in the comments have also suggested other local names. Adisaa in Twi. Udara in Igbo (Nigeria). 

Thanks readers and commentators. This has been a very exciting process. I'm especially pleased with the bonus identification of yooyi as velvet tamarind.


38 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You've no idea how you've made my day today!

    I've been searching for the "English" name of alasa for so long, sometimes roping in some of my colleagues at the office in the quest.

    Three years ago, a similar quest was abandoned because our efforts yielded nothing. Am therefore happy that I've come across your article.

    Although the alasa bears a striking resemblance to the abiu, yellow star apple and caimito, the luma looks nothing like these three. Is there any botanist out there who can help resolve this matter once and for all?

    I ate alasa from Sunyani, in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana and that was sweet, not sour at all. The texture of the flesh was dry and fluffy and turned into gum guickly.

    Come to think of it, I've never come across the fully unripe fruit and I wonder if it really is gelatinous at that stage. Now I have to go looking...

    Personally, I wish the name alasa would be adopted worldwide as the fruit's name. Needless to say, all my colleagues on the research team second this motion.

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  2. For those of us who love teh fruit its almost an addiction. I think we should make some dessert out if it. Either a syrup for icecream or a sorbet....

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  3. me too have been searching for the alasa fruit for a while. I am from Ghana but been living in the United States for as long as I can remember. ALASA is my favorite fruit and yes, the name should be kept as that "ALASA"
    You guys did good with the description. The fleshy inside actually becomes very red and sweet when its fully ripe. When its not, its more pinkish and kinda sweet bitter mix taste. Traders usually cut it in halves when they sell it to display the redness because everyone is aware of the color and taste cordination. I luv alasa alot and am planning to do a fully blown out research article about this fruit on my next visit to the Motherland.
    thanks guys

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  4. ... and there I was thinking we were all daft in my office. Now we know there is no English name for ALASA and as estaticballer said, we should keep ALASA as the name. Another Ghanaian fruit yooyi, anyone know its English name?

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    Replies
    1. yes, the english name for yooyi is Velvet Tamarind

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  6. i just found out the scientific name for the fruit alasa i think its got a lot in common with the abiu .....
    but after a little research i found out that it is also known as Chrysophyllum albidum

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    1. you right! that's the botanical name, its called ''white star apple'' some research claims it could be used to help treat Diabetes, Heart Disease and Infections. greetings to everyone

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  7. fantastik...ijst bought anumber of them 2 dis afternoon nd askd the lady wat its english name is...LOL!!!

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  9. So it means that alasa is abiu, cos i have to deliever answers.!

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  10. The outside of the fruit Abiu does look like Alasa.However the inside looks nothing like it.The skin is not as thick as the Abiu and the inside not quite transparent.I think it's back to the drawing board......so to speak!!!!!!!

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    1. the name is WHITE STAR APPLE

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  11. For the person who asked for the English name for Yooyi, it is Tamarind.

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    Replies
    1. Velvet Tamarind (Dialium indum) ... :D ...

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  12. yooyi is the velvet tamarind; since there are different types! Alasa is my favourite too! Awww..i always salivate when i see it! Dunno why!

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  13. i agree with everyone, however much it fits the description of Abiu, i think the name shd remain Alasa.........afterall kwashiokor was named by a ghanaian doctor and is now in the medical dictionary as such.

    Alberta
    Ghana

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  14. I bought some Alasa this afternoon in Accra and was so surprised when my husband tasted it and said he had never eaten some before! When I was growing up, we always looked forward to the Alasa season so we can have them and have the seeds to play with. Can the researchers tell me the nutritional value of the fruit? I am eating one right now and it is really nice.

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  15. I don't think my readers have agreed on the English name of alasa. For a true nutritional analysis, someone is going to have to take it into the lab and figure that out. But were we to assume that it is the same as (or related to)the abiu, then those nutritional values are at: http://www.fruitsinfo.com/abiu.php#value

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  16. Thanks for the one who supplied the velvet tamarind...you helped us with our project there! lol....

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  17. This is good info. My children should know this. Thanks

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  18. Alasa, well, some of us fantes call it ad3sema or some call it al3sema, but infact, its jam is soooooo good! ate some about five years ago, and boy was it so good! it was a gift to our family and it didnt last five days (n a family of 8) hahaaaa!

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  19. Alasa is the Ga name. The Akwapim Twi name is actually Adisaa. My father, a Twi purist always corrected us, though he didn't give us a Twi name for Yooyi--I'll have to ask him. Thanks for this discussion, I miss the Ghanaian fruits a lot.

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  20. Thank you Anonymous for sharing the Twi name!

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  21. Interesting to know I'm not the only one looking for info on alansa and yooyi. Thanks very helpful

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    1. But don't get carried away by some of the answers because I am just wondering that if yooyi is tamarind or velvet tamarind, what is black berries?

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  22. what about aluguitugui

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  23. aluguntugui is Apple custard

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  24. hi all. am looking for the nutrients in alasa. can you help

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  25. You guys are just great

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  26. Aluguntugui is Soursop and not apple custard

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  27. Annona Atemoya --Custard Apple.
    Annona Muricata --Sour Sop.

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  28. I would love to know the english or botanical name for abrofu nkati3,"pls excuse the twi" not so good with it

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    1. Hi Celestina,
      I believe you mean "sea almond". Ghanaians call it "indian almond" in English.
      Check my post for pictures: http://heliotropicmango.blogspot.com/2012/02/quest-for-perfect-sea-almond-fruit.html

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    2. U are right of the Indian almond

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  29. Pouteria caimito Abiu.. Thanks to your write up.

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