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Tree description: Inga edulis mature trees reach 30-40 m high and 60 cm diameter at breast height, usually branching from below 3 m. The branches form a broad, flat, moderately dense canopy. The bark is pale grey and smooth with pale elongated lenticels. The young twigs are angular in cross-section and covered with fine short hairs.
The edible fruit is very popular in South America, where it is commonly gathered from the wild and also often cultivated.
Scientific Name: Inga edulis
Common Names: (English) ice-cream-bean; (Spanish) chalaite, cuajiniquil, guaba, pacay; (Argentina) ingaguazu
Family: Fabaceae⁄Leguminosae (pea family)
Relatives: carob, tamarind, guamuchil
Origin: Native to South America
Distribution: Inga edulis is native to South America – Amazonian Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana.
The species has been introduced across most of tropical South America, Central America – Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica, northern Australia and Tanzania.
Importance: This tropical fruit is not only delicious and low-fat, but it also contains a wealth of health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins A, B and C, fibre and protein.Like many members of the legume family, Inga trees have the ability to fix nitrogen with the help of Rhizobium bacteria which they house in specialized root nodules. Because they introduce nitrogen from the air into the soil, these root nodules act like fertilizer and help to improve soil fertility.