Book Review

Congo Native Fruits

by Roy M. Danforth and Paul D. Noren

Available from Roy Danforth (c/o Chet Danforth), 6934 Lake Tree Lane, Citrus Heights, CA 95621. Third edition, July 1997. 72 pages, including 32 pages of color photographs. Paperback. $7.50 postpaid.
(Price/availability info may have changed since original publication of review.)

Reviewed by Robert Chambers (3/1998)

This is a delightful book for people who would be interested in reading about very unusual fruits. I for one have never seen and mostly never heard of most of them. Danforth and Noren are missionaries who work to help the local farmers improve their "tree gardening" in the northwest corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. The soil there is very poor, with high acidity (pH 4.5) and toxic amounts of iron and aluminum oxides.

The authors write, "Because deforestation by the people for gardens, firewood, construction poles, etc. has accelerated the deterioration of the environment and the plight of the people, there is tremendous potential for the use of fruit trees in tropical agroforestry systems in Congo." The area has many native fruits of various sorts and the authors have collected 25 of the best to discuss and illustrate.

Each fruit, denoted by its scientific name, is described in about a page of pithy prose which conveys the basic facts about the nature of the tree or vine, the fruit, bearing age, growing conditions, propagation cultivation practices, uses, seed availability and a few miscellaneous notes such as identification of fruits that will "stink up" the house if kept indoors. In the back of the book the authors give paragraph descriptions of 25 more fruits of the area, and then list nine more beyond that.

The authors offer to provide seeds in season for a very modest fee per kind, and invite fruit growers to exchange seeds that they are proud of. The pictures clearly illustrate the fruit and the trees. These are not printed as glossy, show photographs, but rather as businesslike images and they perform a very useful function. In addition to stimulating the imagination, the book brings a real feeling for the rainforest/savanna where the authors work. I recommend the book for anyone who likes to read about fruits. While this is a private, amateur publication, I believe that at the price it is a bargain.


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