An indigenous plant that grows wild in the rocky hills of Limpopo, South Africa, could be the answer to the world's sugar woes. The plant -- known as Arruva, Monatin, or sometimes Molomo Monate -- is reportedly 3,000 times sweeter than table sugar, and contains no carbohydrates.
Sclerochiton ilicifolius, the scientific name of the local plant, is one of the "Awesome South African Inventions" featured in Jacana's recently published "What A Great Idea". The book reveals some amazing homegrown inventions that have come out of this country.
According to the book: "The name is derived from the Sepedi term "molomo monate" ("mouth nice"), as its sweetness was apparently first discovered by the amaTsonga near Lephalale. The shrub's roots are chewed. According to a tribal chief, Phetolo Seleka, 'the tree is sweet and helps to bring reconciliation between two people, and even makes them fall in love'."
The plant has been researched by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research over the past 27 years, to see if it could be turned into a commercial product, Currently, it is one of the alternatives being considered by Coca-Cola's research team as a replacement for sugar.
Whether the plant will make it onto the approved sweeteners list remains to be seen, but it's definitely a sweet idea.