Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/45

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37
THE NARAS.

Sand Fountain, notwithstanding its disagreeable guests, had its advantages. Almost every little sand-hillock thereabout was covered with a "creeper," which produced a kind of prickly gourd (called by the natives naras), of the most delicious flavor. It is about the size of an ordinary turnip (a Swede), and, when ripe, has a greenish exterior, with a tinge of lemon. The interior, again, which is of a deep orange color, presents a most cooling, refreshing, and inviting appearance. A stranger, however, must be particularly cautious not to eat of it too freely, as otherwise it produces a peculiar sickness, and great soreness of the gum and lips. For three or four months in the year it constitutes the chief food of the natives.

The naras contains a great number of seeds, not unlike a peeled almond in appearance and taste, and being easily separated from the fleshy parts, they are carefully collected, exposed to the sun, dried, and then stored away in little skin bags. When the fruit fails, the natives have recourse to the seeds, which are equally nutritious, and perhaps even more wholesome. The naras may also be preserved by being boiled. When of a certain consistency, it is spread out into thin cakes, in which state it presents the appearance of brown moist sugar, and may be kept for almost any length of time. These cakes are, however, rather rich and luscious.

But it is not man alone that derives benefit from this remarkable plant, for every animal, from the field-mouse to the ox, and even the feline and canine race, devour it with great avidity. Birds[1] are also very partial to it, more especially ostriches, who, during the naras season, are found in great abundance in these parts.

    insect has fixed itself with pipe oil. In cases of brute animals, I have found tar to answer the purpose exceedingly well.

  1. I have seen the white Egyptian vulture feed upon it! This is, I believe, with one more exception, the only instance where this class of birds are known to partake of vegetable food.