March 2015 ( not April Fools day) we are reading in the news that a thousand year old Anglo Saxon recipe found in the British Library that is actually ninety percent effective in the eradication of the superbug MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). Following the directions to the letter, scientists concocted a stew of onions, leaks, and garlic, stewed in vintage wine and cows’ bile in a brass vessel for nine days to an amazing success. It may appear to be improbable that, after all, this time we are finding simple ingredients have the power to cure devastating diseases, but perhaps we need to pay more attention.
For centuries folk healers around the world have claimed that God created plants to resemble body parts as a clue to what they cure. This is the Doctrine of Signatures written and found recorded in ancient manuscripts created by the wise. The great historian, ethologist and naturalist, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, created fifty volumes of detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna in the General and Natural History of the West Indies. This became the first catalog of its kind drawn from his extensive first-hand experience. Oviedo is credited as bringing back the first documented information on soursop, and the word traveled with Spanish explorers although it was not widely used or cultivated until 1879. Other information that he returned home to Spain with, gleaned from the native Taino peoples, included the cooking methods of the barbacoa a.k.a. bbq, smoking tobacco and the benefits of the hammock on board ship.
In 1523 he was commissioned by Spain as the historian of the Indies and was part of the colonization of the Caribbean. Imagine how the strange world with its odd exotic fruits and brilliant flowers must have first appeared: jackfruit, durian, custard apple, breadfruit, cacao, soursop and bananas – all so weird and wonderful. Learning their uses limitations and culinary secrets was to prove very profitable for Europe. This was the beginning of the very lucrative spice age.
Fast forward to 2016: I am in my garden looking at this large prickly lopsided heart and wondering what message is encased within. After being picked, the large green fruit takes five more days tXen Wildmano ripen to a pale yellowish green and opens to a reveal delicious sweet/sour white fruit with an abundance of jet black seeds housed in juicy segments. Perhaps the seeds and segments resemble cells. The fruit is grown commercially for the making of ice cream, sorbet and juices but it is also used as a vegetable in Asia. Food value? Rich in carbohydrates, vitamins C, B1, B2, phosphorus and potassium. However when one googles the soursop ( Annona muricata), promoted as Graviola, it is the leaves that gain all the notoriety and also the controversy. It is used as a supposedly affective treatment for certain cancers to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, is antibacterial, anti inflammatory and can help maintain a healthy body. There are as many warnings as there are glowing endorsements so one might be at a loss as to what to believe. Millions of dollars are spent on chemotherapy and pharmaceuticals each year but the humble soursop leaf, so easy to grow, seems to often be only addressed as a last chance alternative. Listen to all the disclaimers and even recalls for what certain drugs can cause and you may be less inclined to be frightened of a few leaves. In general, boil 15 washed older green soursop leaves and one small stem in a liter of water for 30 minutes, simmer, then leave to steep. Drink 2 cups a day hot or cold half an hour before food. Add honey and mint leaves for added enjoyment. Very refreshing.Xen WildmanXen Wildman
Soursop has been used to ensure a good night’s sleep just by placing a few aromatic leaves under the pillow. To further induce its soporific and sudorific effect the leaves can be infused to make tea which has a really pleasing taste. This tea is also particularly good for those suffering from gout. Leaves can be added to bath water to reduce fever and promote healing. Older leaves can be mashed for eczema, skin eruptions and aching joints and younger leaves for ulcers.
Not long ago soursop leaves were selling 10 leaves for US$8; now they cost about US$ 30 for 500 leaves (US$.60 for 10 leaves). Other names for sourssop are guyabano, guanabana, and corossol.Xen Wildman
Now here is a surprising detail: the mashed seeds are an effective pesticide against head lice and bedbugs and the acid flesh can draw out chiggers. So I would recommend keeping the seed out of your smoothy. The bark of the tree can be used as animal poison and the wood contains enough cellulose to make paper.
Soursop is a fast grower from seed bearing fruit in about 3-5 years. The tree can grow to 30 feet but can be topped at six feet for easy harvesting.
For all the “magical” benefits of soursop, the one I prescribe is two scoops in a sugar cone on a hot day.
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