The story goes, that the fruit of the Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) tree or sometimes called the “elephant tree” in South Africa is a favorite food of the elephants. And when the fruit drops from the tree onto the ground, as it ferments the elephants can’t resist eating them, which in turn naturally gets them drunk! Now of course this conjures up images of a drunken Dumbo and Pink Elephants on Parade. There is a controversy over whether the rumors to the many historical and modern tales of these intoxicated pachyderms is actually true. People say they’ve personally witnessed it but biologists and zoologists say the claims aren’t biochemically possible. Whether you believe it or not, the visual is too hilarious.
Taking a page out of the pachyderm playbook the Amarula company in South Africa has created a wonderful cream liqueur made from the Marula fruit. If you’ve ever had Bailey’s Irish Cream, the taste of Amarula is very similar but with subtle hints of fruit, finished with caramel, and can be mixed in much the same way. Known as the “African original” this one-of-a-kind concoction was first marketed in 1989 by the Southern Liqueur Company of South Africa. What makes it so unusual is the fact that it is made of the exotic Marula fruit only found on the Sub Saharan plains of Africa. Sometimes compared to a mango, according to the Amarula site it is the size of a small plum and resembles a loquat with golden- yellowish skin, white flesh and texture much like a lychee, it has a succulent citrus tang and a creamy, nutty taste.
Marula is harvested by hand in the Phalabrowa in Limpopo Province, between mid January and mid March when the fruit is at the height of the season. It is gathered by people in the local rural communities in competition with the other locals; elephants, rhino, warthog, kudu, baboons, vervet monkeys, zebra and porcupine, who also want their share. After harvesting the fruit, it is crushed with the skins and all, put through a de-stoner and then the fruit pulp is pumped into cooling tanks where it is kept at a consistent 6 degrees Celsius as it begins the fermentation process into wine, while bringing out the exotic flavors and aromas. They then, use the double distilling process, where the wine is initially put into column stills to distill it into clear spirits and then distilled again in copper pot stills. Once the distilling process is over they age it for 24 months in oak, which imparts hints of vanilla, wood spice and toast. After the aging process is completed they blend it with fresh cream, to give it, it’s delicious, creamy and velvety smooth, texture.
A really cool thing about the Amarula company is that they are very environmentally conscious and support the local communities, first by buying the fruit that is collected, and then after the de-stoning process the remaining nuts and seeds are collected and given back to the local communities to use in oils, ointments and eating the inner kernels. Making sure that not a single gram of the fruit is wasted. The Marula is an integral part of Sub Saharan culture, the trees being important for shade often used as canopies for weddings, and it’s roots for water which are tapped during times of drought. It is used for medicinal purposes for things like stomach issues, skin infections, insect bites, and burns. The oils are used to make candles, while the inner bark is used to make rope and even brewed into infusions that are used in spiritual ceremonies.
The Amarula company’s slogan is
Sustaining communities and Conscious conservation
Which brings me to the Amarula Trust Projects. As I mentioned earlier the Amarula Company is very much into the conservancy of sustaining the culture and environment of Sub Saharan Africa. So much so that they’ve created a Trust which includes such good works as creating and contributing 3 million Rand with even more donated recently, to the Amarula Elephant Research Programme (AERP) which conducts research into the habitat, conservation, and protection of these magnificent creatures, that are so endangered today. They have introduced sustainable economic development programs such as day cares and clinics for the native population, scholarship programs, and the “Tassle Project”.
The Amarula Tassle Project is an innovative women’s job creation project taking place in Sir Lowry’s Pass village in the Western Cape that helps unemployed women pay for their children’s education fees and other life essentials including even the purchasing of homes. Starting in 2003 the initiative, where these women thread, knot and brush out the golden braided tassels that are around the neck of every Amarula bottle, now employs 85 women from young mothers to grandmothers. The group also helps 300 additional people in the village community, so they can send support to their families in parts of the impoverished Eastern Cape. These in addition to several other projects, makes purchasing and drinking Amarula not only delicious, but allows for good works as well. With all this goodness it’s hard to say “No” to a bottle of Amarula!
They’re here and there
Pink elephants ev’rywhere ~ Disney’s Dumbo
I’d like to thank the Amarula website http://www.amarula.com/ for helping me write this blog.