The Story of Marula, Elephants, and Beer

As many bloggers will note, sometimes staying on topic can be difficult. Anyone, who has ever written a paper or a journal, knows to stay on topic. Fortunately, no such rule exists for blogging!

In a previous post… actually previous two posts, we tried to stay focused on marula. DLG sells marula oil to international clients, so we have a particular interest in the subject: What makes marula oil so special? But, as in life, we have those “squirrel!” moments. Something attracts our attention, and off we go!

Photo credit: Ross Couper and Singita Safaris

This time, it was elephants! But, we stayed clear, intent on marula. No great, gray pachyderms would deter us from our appointed rounds. (Actually, elephants and marula do have their own story!)

Our focus this time is the marula fruit itself, the pulp that serves as food for animals and humans. But like many other kinds of fruit, marula can also be fermented. People in southern Africa make a “beer” (“mokhope” or “ubuganu”) from the fresh fruit, although “beer” may be the wrong descriptor. For those of us, who have brewed beer at home, about 4 weeks is required to complete the brewing process.

Not so with marula. We are talking a mere couple of days here. Days, not weeks. In fact, anything past three days is probably too much. After that, the concoction is very potent – even if any is left to drink!

Brewing marula beer is a cultural and social activity, taking place in the first few months of the year when ripe fruit is available… and there is plenty of ripe fruit! Woman peel the fruit, crush the pulp, and remove the stones (similar to plums). (Watch this video for a demonstration.) Water is added in an equal amount to the mash (oh, yes, don’t forget to remove the worms first), which is then left in a covered bucket for…

… one day, maybe two. If you are brave, you might try the three-day beer. Anything past that, fair warning!

After that, it is festival time! One of the biggest is the Limpopo Marula Festival. Out in the villages, however, people sit around in a shady circle, scoop beer from a communal vat, share large pitchers of the brew, and give thanks for fruit, the “mokhope,” and the wonderful, joyous tradition passed from generation to generation.

Now, about the elephants…. Well, maybe next time!

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