Fruits of Uganda
Ugandan fruits or fruits of Africa speak in different dialects and sing in all flavors of tasty serenade. As you focus on taste, when combined with sight, the two senses create emotions, feelings of nostalgia, and involuntary memories of when your mother would serve the younger you heaven in a fruit basket.
From fresh crimson berries to mangoes of every color and description, Ugandan fruits rent the country air with sweet airy perfection thanks to Uganda’s fertile soils, abundant rainfall, and sunshine blazing a trail to the many different kinds of tasty fruits like pineapples, papaya, mango, avocado, bananas, plantains, etc.
Most of the major fruits of Uganda were all introduced from elsewhere, but a few like tamarind are indigenous to Uganda. True, most of the native fruits don’t produce good flavored fruits and aren’t of great importance in the local diets. However, the country is both suitable for temperate fruits and lowland fruits.
Uganda has two main climatic seasons(opens in a new tab) which influence most of the fruit blossoms: dry and wet seasons.
You can never come to Uganda and leave without trying out some of her sweet fruits. It is actually very possible to live in Uganda and live on a fruit diet alone, though we don’t recommend it. If you ever plan to travel to Uganda, we recommended the following tasty fruits:
Only in Uganda will you find the sweetest and biggest pineapple this side of eternity. Uganda’s pineapples are exceedingly juicy and succulent. When ripe, the pineapple belly turns yellowish brown and softens into a pulpous taste of paradise. It can be eaten as a main fruit alone or as a salad or blended into a juice. Whatever the case, it goes without mention that the pineapple is your best companion on a Uganda safari.
Pineapples are mainly grown in central Uganda and they come in different shapes and sizes. The smaller pineapple variety has a better flavor when allowed to ripen well but the larger variety is more popular. Despite their variations, their sweetness is an abiding fact. There is large trade in pineapples in Ugandan markets and are a common site along most roadsides.
Yellow Banana (Bogoya)
Let’s go bananas in our Matooke republic! But before you make like a banana and split, let us tell you about our bananas. In Uganda, bananas are as common as potatoes in Ireland or blessings in Heaven.They are the most important fruits in Uganda. It is estimated that in Uganda alone there are over 30 different varieties of banana, but we will focus on the common yellow bananas (bogoya) which grows mostly in the central and southern parts of the country. It is a unique species of banana that is eaten raw when ripe and can be found in most markets across Uganda. This variety resembles the “grocery store” banana sold in Europe and America, though this one is sweeter and has stronger aroma. These long curved fruits have a soft pulpy flesh which make them easy to eat. All you need to do is peel off the outer layer and eat the exposed innards. When you are on a safari in Uganda, make it a point to try them. Yellow bananas can be eaten fresh out of hand as snacks or as part of fruit salad mixes.
Since bananas are not native to Uganda, they must have been introduced by early travellers from Asia. The banana fruit is a barren fruit because it contains tiny degenerate seeds which lost the sexual mode of reproduction. Because of this, the plant is propagated by suckers which arise from the roots of adult plants.
Wild animals especially monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees and gorillas are fond of bananas when ripe or not and will ‘go bananas’ whenever they see them.
In Uganda there is also another type of sweet banana that is eaten raw. This is the short curved banana. It is sweeter than the bogoya and it is called dessert banana, local name ndiizi. It is clustered in numerous fingers and can be bought from most local markets and along major highways. These tiny bananas are also used to make local pancakes locally known as Kabalagala(opens in a new tab). Ugandan sweet bananas should not be confused with the plantain varieties locally referred to as matooke. The main difference between these two classifications is by the form of use. Matooke is cooked unripe before eating while the bananas are eaten raw after they have ripened.
Watermelon is 6% sugar and 94% Ugandan, yet it is one fruit that has no local name. Everyone in Uganda calls it watermelon, even though the ‘L’ is corrupted by an ‘R’ due to our indigenous pronunciation. These green giants are grown across the country. Almost all varieties grown in Uganda are seeded. Which, in tennis terms, is means it is highly ranked. Watermelon is readily available in the local markets. The red inners of this fruit can be eaten at any time of the day or blended into a juice. Indeed there is nothing as refreshing as a cold slice of watermelon on a hot tropical afternoon, it’s pure ambrosia in your mouth.
If you come from a tropical country or nation near the tropics, then you must be on friendly terms with this large fragrant orange fleshed fruit with yellow skin. Though the fruit is a native of the South American tropics, it found its way to Uganda and can be found in markets all across the country.
Uganda has a variety of papayas. The most common are the yellow and red ones. The papaya turns yellow as it ripens and the easiest way to eat it is to divide it into wedges with a knife and then scoop it out with a spoon. This large fruit is often served in large wedge strips which make for the perfect afternoon dessert or fruit platter.
Mangoes are the most widely distributed and most popular fruits in Uganda. They can be found in markets all year round though different varieties will be ready for harvest at different times of the year. There are tens of species of mangoes in Uganda and mango trees can be found dotted across the countryside. As you connect these dots, you will notice variations in the fruits – some are small and stringy on the inside, some are large and pointed, some are darker skinned and less-pointed, some are brightly coloured. One common feature of them all is their juicy sweetness when ripe. The bigger varieties you find on the market are hybrids grown for their desirable traits. Mangoes can be eaten whole without first peeling them or in slices after peeling them with a knife. At times mangoes are pureed to make mango juice, which is a common fixture on menus of most restaurants when mangoes are in season. You will notice many mangoes planted as shade trees in most homes.
Sugar cane (Kikajjo)
Although not a fruit, it is included here since it is the commonest of edible stem tubers that you will ever come across. If not cut down, these beautiful giants tend to grow to heights of 8 to 12 feet. There are mainly two kinds; the big and soft but green skinned ones locally known as “goa” and the small and hard but purple skinned ones. The goa variety is the one you will most often find on sale in markets. Their juice is sweeter than that of the purple skinned variety. They are mainly found in the fields upcountry. Sugar cane is good for sugar extraction and it is the main source of sugar in Uganda. Sugar plantations can be seen lined along the road to Jinja, home to the Source of the Nile(opens in a new tab). They can also be found in Masindi en route Murchison Falls. They are squeezed to produce table sugar. It is advisable that you peel the sugar cane with a knife and slice it up rather than having to bite into it. Go ahead and bite into the sweet fibrous stalks until all the flavor is extracted then spit out the pulp.
Oranges are the commonest of citrus fruits that you will find in Uganda. They come in different sizes and colours. And you are likely to find them in residential compounds, supermarkets and on the roadside market stall. Oranges are second to passion fruits in terms of the fruits you are likely to find in most parts of Uganda.
Much as they can be found in other parts of the country, they are mainly grown in Eastern Uganda. The most common types include lemons (enimu), sweet oranges, and tangerines (mangada). You can eat the orange by peeling off the green cover or by blending it into juice. The choice is all yours.
Passion Fruit (Butunda)
Ugandans have a great passion for fruit, namely passion fruits. They will take passion fruit juice with almost every meal under the cuisine-friendly sun. Almost every restaurant has passion fruit juice or a cocktail version of it. Passion fruits are the most common fruits you will find anywhere in Uganda. They are mainly purple outside when ripe, but other varieties like the maracuya variety have a bright yellow skin when ripe, while the hybrid variety has a reddish brown skin. Locals prefer the sweet purple skinned variety to the tangy hybrid variety. The most widespread use of the fruit is in juices. Passion fruit juice is the most consumed soft drink in Uganda and is made from a mixture of passion fruit concentrate, water, and lots of cane sugar.
If music be the food of love, then avocado is the silent melody of that love. Though originally from South America, the seeds found their way to Uganda from Singapore in 1911 and quickly became popular and widely grown. This dark-yellow green fruit has a universal appeal in Uganda. You are likely to find an avocado tree or two growing in most compounds in Uganda. If not, you will find the fruits on stalls at most local markets or supermarkets near you. A typical meal in Uganda is incomplete without an avocado slice, sorry guacamole lovers! The fruits are harvested from trees when mature, then allowed to ripen for a few days before they are eaten.
Jack Fruit (Fene)
Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophylla) is the world’s largest tree-borne fruit with some fruits weighing over 40 kilograms. Here in Uganda, the Jack fruit trees grow without no fuss or frills into large trees bearing massive sweet flavoured and strong smelling fruits. To tell the maturity of the fruit before harvesting, you tap the fruit with your palm and listen for a deep sound. Though in other parts of the world, Jack fruit is enjoyed in many forms. In Uganda, it is exclusively eaten raw after it has ripened on the tree. These fleshy fruits are great sources of Vitamin C while the seeds are rich in potassium, calcium, iron, and protein. So be sure to delve your teeth deep and fast into the pulpy texture when you come to Uganda. Watch out for the pungent smell and the sticky latex that oozes out when the fruit is cut open! Soap and water won’t wash it off your hands, but you can apply a considerable amount of edible oil to your hands before savouring it to prevent the latex from sticking to your fingers. It is not uncommon to see street vendors serving it up on wooden carts by the road side especially in urban centers.
Black plum (Jambula)
It is a rare and unusual fruit which is often overlooked or not given the attention it deserves. So, like every great truth, it is underrated and largely undigested. Its skin can be purple, maroon or green depending on how ripe the fruit is. It can be eaten whole, but once you have eaten off the tangy sweet flesh, watch out for the large inedible seed on the inside. Just spit it out. The fruits are usually the size of small grapes and should be allowed to ripen first on the tree for best flavour before being harvested. You will rarely find them on sale at most markets, but they are a common seasonal delicacy enjoyed by children in the countryside.
Sour Sop (Kitafeli)
Over the years, this pointy fruit has garnered a lot of local praise due to its purported cancer fighting benefits. You will often find it sold by street vendors, especially during a traffic jam. It is green on the outside, but white and creamy on the inside. The interior is also dotted with black seeds that resemble large watermelon seeds. You can eat it as it is but most people use it to make juice or milkshakes. Be careful not to eat the black seeds as they contain a toxin which can accumulate in the body.
When in season, guavas are found across the country. Guavas are tropical fruit trees originating in Central America. Their fruits are oval in shape with a light green or yellow thin skin and contain numerous edible seeds. Though guavas don’t qualify for dessert, they are great for making jellies and juices. What’s more, guava leaves are used as an herbal tea and the leaf extract as a supplement. Guava fruits are amazingly rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. This remarkable nutrient content gives them many health benefits. Especially tasty, you can almost hear the soft tearing crunch when biting into it and tasting its sweet flesh when ripe.