The Kola nut.
The following information concerning this drug has just appeared in Consular Report, Vol. 46, No. 171, page 532.
The Department on August 18, 1894, instructed the consuls at Bathurst, Goree-Dakar, Monrovia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tamatave, and Zanzibar to investigate and report upon the kola nut in their respective districts—its cultivation, the trade therein, and its ascertained value as a substitute for ordinary food.
The following reports from the consuls at Sierra Leone, Tamatave, and Zanzibar, are in reply to the foregoing instructions. No replies have been received from the consuls at the other places; when received, they will be published at once.
Referring to instructions from the Department, under date of August 18 last, I have the honor to state that, with the view of obtaining the best and most reliable information on the subject-matter, I immediately addressed the administrator of this colony, and have the honor to inclose his reply, received to-day, which contains all the information at present available, from public sources, on the subject of the growth, output, export, and value of kola nuts, as regards the colony of Sierra Leone.
Governor Garden to Consule Pooley.
Government House, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
October 16, 1894.
Sir: In reply to your letter of the 17th ultimo, asking for certain information respecting kola nuts, I have the honor to forward herewith copies of memoranda by Mr. Spaine, the colonial postmaster, and Mr. Faulkner, the assistant colonial secretary, on the production, output, export, and prices of this article, which, I trust, will meet your requirements.
The "broad leaf," mentioned in the assistant colonial secretary's memorandum, I understand, belongs to the natural order of the malvacese and is known in the West Indies and South America by ihe name of "Bal leaf."
I have, etc.,
Assistant Secretary Faulkner to Governor Garden.
Herewith is a memorandum, made by Mr. Spaine, the colonial postmaster, respecting the production of kola nuts. The kola tree produces the nuts in pods containing from three to eight nuts. When full, the pod changes from a green to a red-brownish color, and, if not picked in time, dehisces or falls to the ground.
The nuts, when collected, are laid by for a few days to allow the skin to soften, so as to admit an easy removal when washed.
The nuts are exported in two ways, viz.: fresh and dry. To keep it fresh, care should be taken that the nuts are properly washed with clean, fresh water, not a particle of the decayed skin being allowed to remain on them. After the water has drained, the quantity for shipment is put into a cane basket, inlaid with a kind of broad leaf peculiarly adapted to keep the nuts fresh for a considerable time—say, three months and more—and to keep away worms, which are very destructive to the nuts.
To export it in the dry state entails no trouble. After getting off the skin, by washing, the nuts are split into pieces and dried in the sun, after which they are shipped in ordinary packages, and, so long as kept dry, are not subject to deterioration. The fresh nuts are sold in Freetown at from £3 to £6 ($14.60 to $29.20) per measure, equal to 1 ½ bushels.
The kola nuts are principally exported to the following places, and those exported from Sierra Leone in 1893 were as follows:
(1 cwt. = 112 pounds.)
Postmaster Spaine to Assistant Secretary Faulkner.
The kola nut is grown from the nut itself. It should be planted when the nut is fresh, and not in the dried condition in which it is exported to European markets.
Raw kola nuts should be planted in nursery beds, the same as coffee seeds. They will begin to shoot in about five weeks and produce leaves in a week after. It grows with some rapidity in its early stage, and in less than four months, if regularly watered, the plant will be fit for transportation. Its growth after this is slower, according to the nature of the soil. The kola likes a moist, but not damp, soil and thrives best by the side of running brooks. Lands with a flat-rock formation a few feet below the soil will not do, but a loose, porous soil, with a great depth of earth and a clay or sand formation below, will do very well. With a liberal supply of manure and water, during the dry season, the kola tree will come to maturity and bring forth fruit in five years. Where the conditions are less favorable, the tree, will bear fruit two or three years later.
I may add to the foregoing, from personal knowledge, that the natives here, and at Bathurst, Gambia, eat the nuts in the early morning, as a stay against the wants of ordinary food while travelling, and in the evening to induce sleep. Altogether they consider that a general benefit to the human system is derived from the consumption of the kola—say a single nut morning and evening.
Robert P. Pooley,
Sierra Leone, October 16, 1894.