The Belizean jungle provides, like all jungles, special treats to all animals. There are wild berries, cohune nuts, water vines and a Mayan spice called culantro (not cilantro that you know), to name a few. Birds and mammals have a fanatical appreciation for the jungle of Belize. Sure, after all it is their source of food and certainly their home. Every so often, the jungle offers something very different to the universe. An example is the stemadaemia fruit.
If we ask anyone to remember the name of this wild fruit for a test, they would, at best take a wild guess on the true or false question or a wild guess on a multiple choice question. However, things change when the local name flavour start enriching one’s vocabulary. The local names give to this particular wild fruit are “horses nuts”, or “Grandfather’s nuts” or the Spanish name “cojotones”. Now, try forgetting those! Whatever name you can remember, we know that toucans and parrots love this fruit which splits in half when ripened exposing a bright orange/red inside with a centre of yellow seeds. Its beautiful and it definitely will get your attention. While we do not consume this nut, we certainly have had much experience as kids using it as a tool.
Growing up in or close to the jungle, as kids, we were enamoured by kites. A huge accomplishment for Belizean children growing up is the creation of our first kite – coconut straws for the ribs, Amandala or Reporter newspaper pages, string, a thin piece of cloth for a tail and “horses nuts” as our natural Elmer’s glue. This fruit, once broken off the stem, “bleeds” a white sap which would hold our paper sheets securely together on our kites. The sap of this fruit is magic and it certainly was amazing for kids growing up loving kites.
Not only was it a paramount source of glue for our kites, but it is also a wart destroyer. Medicinally, a few pastes of this sap over a wart and almost magically the wart disappears. The stemadaemia fruit is truly one way in which nature says to us “have fun, live well”. Every late Spring and early Summer this fruit, found in abundance around Ancient Maya sites, ripens and toucans and parrots welcome it in celebration.