Nance: nature’s bird feeder starts up for another year

nance 1
Nance — Byrsonima crassifolia — is a flowering neotropical tree or shrub of the acerola family, Malpighiaceae.

There are PEOPLE who like
nance, too, for some reason

photos and article by Eric Jackson

Ask somebody about the fruit that grows on the nance tree in this reporter’s back yard, and she might sing high praises — if she is a bird. Many species of birds love this stuff and it makes working conditions so much more pleasant to have the nance tree in the background of the computer on which The Panama News is produced.

If you are one to sell the berries to people unfamiliar with them, you might put it this way:

What does Nance taste like?

Nance fruit has an oily white pulp that surrounds 1 to 3 small inedible white seeds. The aroma of the pulp has been described as “soap-like” due to its high oil content. Nance fruits have a starchy texture and are somewhat acidic but have a subtle sweetness when fully ripe.

But this is a publication that tries to adhere to the first principle of journalism, the truth.

Those berries taste like vomit.

Ah, but let’s have none of this intolerant “objective reality” stuff that does not take into account that perceptions depend on the point of view of the observer. People sell bottles of nance berries in water, and find customers. There is even nance ice cream. People bake all sorts of things with them.

But few are the gringos that like the stuff. An “acquired taste,” so it is said.

Except for songbirds that visit this reporter’s tree. To them it’s instinctive.

Also know that meats, poultry and seafood smoked or grilled over firewood from the nance tree is very popular here, and this writer does like that flavor. However, there is a bit of a controversy, and could be more if ever Panama would remove economic and cultural blinders and get serious about environmental medicine. We have a fairly high rate of gastric tract cancers here, especially in rural areas. There are some physicians who suspect that it has to do with all the smoked stuff that we eat.

For birds, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

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They’re the first flowers of the year but the whole nance tree does not flower or fruit all at once. Give us a few weeks and we should get some rain, and after that some fruit and birds coming to eat it. As nance berries ripen, fall and ferment on the ground, there will be rowdy drunken birds eating those, too.

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