Sweet Thorn 2016-11-22T08:30:23+00:00

Project Description

Acacia karroo / Muunga (Sh) / Isinga (N)

The Sweet Thorn is a species of Acacia, native to southern Africa. The tree gets its common name from the gum which is exuded from wounds in the bark. This pleasant tasting, very water-soluble gum has commercial value as a substitute for Gum Arabic.

Where it can be found: The Sweet Thorn is widespread in Zimbabwe, though most prolific in the south-west of the country. It can be found in NR 1 to 5, above 1,000m. It is a fast-growing, adaptable pioneer, able to establish itself without shade, shelter or protection from grass fires. It grows to its greatest size when rainfall of 800-900mm is received but can grow and even thrive in very dry conditions. The tree is easy to grow also, making it suitable for smallholder production.

What is harvested – Harvesting time: The gum must be collected between August-October.

Average yield per collector: One person can bleed up to 100 trees per day. Each tree yields an average of 300g of gum/season.

The gum is very soluble in water and forms solutions over a wide range of concentrations without becoming highly viscous. It is a substitute for Gum Arabic, which is widely used as a stabiliser, emulsifier and thickening agent in the confectionary and meat processing industry, as an ingredient in lotions and creams, and by pharmaceutical companies.
Preliminary production trials and subsequent marketing efforts established that the gum is lower quality and value than Gum Arabic, but still marketable. Locally, the gum can be used by the food and paper industry. Historically, limited amounts of A. karroo gum have been marketed in Zimbabwe as Gum Arabic, although the decline in local food manufacturing industries has impacted upon this demand. Sufficient supplies have also not yet been attained to really attract market interest.