Shea Nuts, Delicious and Juicy
Sheabutter is derived from the sheanut tree, with the botanical name Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa and is a common wild tree that grows extensively in the dry Savannah belt of West Africa, stretching from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east. The sheanut tree also thrives along the foothills of the Ethiopian highlands. Apart from Ghana, the tree can be found in 18 other countries including Benin, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo Uganda, Zaire and Guinea. In Ghana, it grows extensively in the Guinea savannah but is less prolific in the Sudan Savannah. It covers a landmass of about 77,670 square kilometers in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana. A few sheanut trees are also found in the Brong-Ahafo, Ashanti, the Eastern and Volta Regions in the southern parts of the country.
The Sheanut Tree
The fruit consists of a green fleshy mesocarp, which is sweet when eaten and in very ripe fruits seems to melt on the tongue when the fruit is bitten. It is also used to make jam. The mesocarp has a high nutritional value and contains between 0.7 to 1.3g of protein and 41.2g of carbohydrate. The fruit pulp is also a rich source of ascorbic acid and contains196.1mg/100g in comparison with an orange, which contains only 50mg/100g. The iron and calcium content of the mesocarp of the sheanut compares favorably with that of raspberries. Sheanuts contain 1.93mg/100g of iron as against 0.92mg/100g in raspberries. Sheanuts also contain 36.4mg/100g of calcium as against 26mg/100g for raspberries. Apart from these micro nutrients, sheanuts contain the B group vitamins and a sugar level of about 3 to 6 percent which is equally distributed among glucose, fructose and sucrose. Even the flowers of the sheanut tree are consumed by some ethnic groups that make them into edible fritters. The nuts are cracked to remove the outer cover leaving the endocarp or kernel which is roasted and ground into a paste from which sheabutter is extracted. The nuts also serve as toys for children, who use them to play a game known as “maranda”, the common name given to the nuts in Ghana.