Fruit of the month: Kooni or Jalang'o

My Magazine 2022/01
4 min
The fruit, which in The Gambia is known by the local name Kooni or Jalang'o, is called rhun palm in English. Its other names are fan palm and palmyra palm, while the botanical name is Borassus an aethiopum. It is widely seen in the tropical and subtropical regions, mainly in Africa. The tree grows to about 25 metres tall. Its fruit is green and smooth and looks similar to the small coconut with the difference that they grow in bigger bunches on a branch.

If you have been to The Gambia before, you have probably seen this tall tree with large branches. You might have even mistaken it for the coconut or palm tree. The fruits, however, are different from the world known coconut, which is brown and with a hard shell when removed from the green case.  When you open the kooni at the top, you can see three holes that hold the juicy and jelly water of the fruit, which is the only edible part of the kooni. The easiest way to eat it is to use the finger and suck the juice with jelly flesh out of the sockets. But you can also use the spoon. The taste is similar to the water of a young coconut, only a bit milder. The only bad thing is that the edible part presents only a small percentage of the whole fruit.

You will see this fruit in The Gambia from October to December being sold on the streets, markets, and schools. You can buy a full branch for about D50 or D100.

Children like to search for this fruit in the bush and forest areas. Gambians have a unique technique of plucking the kooni from the tree. They use a very long ladder to reach it and use a cutlass to cut the branch. Or they would use a belt to climb the palm. This locally made belt can be seen with every palm tapping family. It is made from the bark of a tree and tied together into knots to make it firm. It is tied around the tree and person tapping. After cutting the branches, people gather around to eat them. Those who harvest it for commercial purposes will sell it at the market or just at the compound door.

The rhun palm has many uses for the local people. The leaves of the plant are hand fan-shaped and are very big when they mature. The branches are used for fencing and roofing of homes, while the big stems can even be used to make a bridge above the water passage.

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