Monday, September 24, 2012

Meet Masau

For those of you receiving blogs via automatic email, sorry in advance for the number of posts this week... I have decided to do a food post each day, to introduce you to some of the new foods we have tried here in Africa.   And no.  For those of you wondering, the queen ant is sitting in formaldehyde in Kurt's classroom.   We haven't been quite that brave.

Meet Masau:  Whenever I think of this fruit, I now think of the Golden Girls. Above is a plate of the dried masau fruit we brought home from the market last weekend.  Jonas and I, having seen bags of the fruit for the past few weeks at local farm stands, finally asked an old woman we often buy tomatoes from about the fruit. She opened a bag and handed one to Jonas and I.  Terrible mother that I am, I didn't question its cleanliness, and Jonas and I each popped a dried fruit into our mouths.  A slightly tart, slightly sweet taste filled our mouths. A moment later I watched Jonas swallow as I realized a pit sat in the middle.  I spit my pit into the grass; Jonas' was found a day later.  Jonas approved, and since the woman had opened a bag for us (great marketing move: guilt by generosity) I bought the bag for 50 cents (then had to get an avocado, too, to make it add up to a dollar- darn you, lack of coin currency!), figuring it would be a nice snack for Jonas during our long hikes.  

We went home and placed the bag in our cupboard.  A few hours later I walked past and smelled... well, vomit.  I opened the cupboard and realized that masau is great in the open air.  Inside four walls?  Vomit. The pungency of masau is something Jonas has been unable to get over, and not another masau fruit has passed his lips despite my attempts. Never thought I'd make a Golden Girls reference on this blog, but apparently my obsession with the eighties sitcom is shameless... There is an episode in which Rose (Betty White) makes the most horrid, disgustingly smelling Scandanavian dessert ever, which she calls "Gerneten-fluken cake."  She somehow convinces the other ladies to try it, and when they do they are in love. "It tastes like strawberry cheesecake!" they all exclaim.  So they sit all day, snacking on their cake while pinching their noses.  (Ah, that Betty White.) They may as well have been eating masau. 

So what is masau? The masau fruit, also found in neighbouring Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, is wine coloured with a sweet and slightly sour taste. The shape, size and texture are reminiscent of dried cherries. Masau are chewy, and you need to use your teeth to tear the flesh off the seed. (Because the seed is hard to extract, they are rarely used for baking... or feeding two-year-olds apparently.)  The fruit is supposed to be rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. Masau (pronounced mah-sow) are eaten fresh, dried, or boiled into jam. Local communities also use the fruit as a base for distilling an alcoholic beverage called "kachasu". In traditional medicine, masau is used to treat a variety of ailments including colds and flu, which makes sense if it is high in Vitamin C. Oh, and also because if you don't have a good cross-breeze, you'll need a stuffy nose to ingest it.

For more info on masau, click on this article.