Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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naras Acanthosicyos horridus, a wild vine of the cucurbit family, common in the Kalahari and Namib deserts of southern Africa, which bears round, prickly, melon-like fruits. Local tribes, especially the Hottentots, depend on these fruits for a large part of their diet. During several months of the summer the fruits are eaten fresh. They are juicy, with a pleasant, slightly acid flavour. Fruits are also preserved.

The flat, oily seeds are kept for food in winter. They have a soft, nutlike texture and a buttery flavour, and are sometimes referred to as ‘butterpits’. Besides eating them, the Hottentots extract a cooking oil from them. Butterpits used to be sold as a substitute for almonds in S. Africa.