Creamy fruit of love

2010-03-19 13:19

THEY come in

their numbers – young boys pushing wheelbarrows, women balancing full sacks on

their heads and men driving bakkies packed with it in the back. Once, even an

old ambulance was used to ferry hundreds of the tiny yellow fruit.

They

are the people of Phalaborwa in Limpopo during the morula harvest time, a time

when elephants – who love the fruit – come out to play.

Men

and women brew their own special brand of morula beer, and women from the

community are hired to be part of the Amarula production line. The ground – from

the bush at private game reserves to the side of the street – is covered with

the fruit.

“This

is an exciting time for us here,” says Emma Mahomane of the Amarula Lapa. “This

fruit brings life and excitement to the community. Everywhere you look, people

are picking the fruit and coming to drop it off here for a fee.”

“Here”

is the Amarula Lapa, home of South Africa’s award- ­winning Amarula Cream

liqueur. For a product that is enjoyed in more than 100 countries, its

production is surprisingly modest and community-based.

The

Lapa is where hundreds of men, women and children from Phalaborwa queue for

hours for a chance to exchange their pickings for an agreed fee from the

company.

It

is where at least 60 women from the community are employed to clean and sort the

fruit on rotation (the plant is operational for 24 hours during harvest time)

before it is ­de-stoned.

The

flesh is then separated from the skin before it is fermented under similar

conditions as wine at Distell Cellar in Stellenbosch.

The

young liqueur is matured for two years in oak casks before it is mixed with

fresh cream to produce Amarula Cream.

But

for the people of Phalaborwa, there is more to the morula fruit than a liqueur.

To them, the morula tree, which the fruit falls from, is just as important as

the fruit itself.

According

to Mahomane, the morula tree can be as old as 100 years, hence it is held with

much ­regard in the community.

“We

call it the love tree. Legend has it that if lobola negotiations, and later the

marriage ceremony, are conducted under the tree, then your marriage will last as

long as the tree and you will never get divorced,” she says.

And

if a couple is having problems the elders can’t resolve, they get tied together

to the bark of the tree and left there for a few hours to iron out their

problems.

Mme

Pulane, the Lapa’s official storyteller, agrees. She usually ­gathers guests

under a morula tree surrounded by a concrete circle with a bonfire in the

middle. This is where Mme Pulane holds guests ­enraptured as she tells the story

of the morula tree, punctuated by the occasional banshee call and ­“Morula!”.

  • Shota’s trip was

    sponsored by Distell


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