Sweet Gifts

The traditional chief of the Salawe area where we lived, Ntenga, had a fairly extensive pawpaw (or papaya) garden. Not just a few tPawpawTree2rees planted here and there but about an acre of nothing but pawpaw trees. Being the chief, he had a number of people working for him and the place was always well weeded and cultivated.

Because of relationships established with him before we moved to the area, when we finally arrived I was invited from time to time to drink tea with him in the chief’s boma, served by one of his wives. Often after the tea, if it was the right season, we were served papaya from his garden.

This papaya fruit was always quite sweet; never bland or flat-tasting as papaya often can be. I commented once to the chief about this and he said, “aho jilijilila kuhya” … oh, sorry! … “as they are ripening, we throw sand at them. This makes them “kulila” (cry – makes the white sap flow out of the fruit) and that makes them sweet”.

The chief was convinced of this. I never did have the chance (or remember!) to try that on a couple papaya trees I had so I can’t vouch for it. My trees produced both sweet and bland or flat-tasting fruit. That is why I planted a lime tree so we would have lime juice, mainly for the flat-tasting papaya. But whenever the chief sent us a gift of papaya we could always be sure they would taste great!

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