ESOKON (SALVADORA PERSICA) TREE AMONG THE TURKANA
Esekon or Esokon (salvadora persica) is an evergreen trailing shrub around 3-7m tall, young flexible branches hanging down, older wood twisted. The leaves are yellow green, dull, rather fleshy but hard with rough gland dots and raised veins. Flowers are small and white. Fruits are white, then pink to purple, sweet but peppery.
The tree grows in most low-attitude areas of Kenya, especially in arid, semi-arid and coastal regions. Very good drought resistant. An important indicator of saline soils. It is the only green plant seen during the dry season in areas where it grows. It provides excellent shade. In riverine vegetation, the bushy plant is good for soil erosion. Said to be the mustard of the Bible.
Esokon tree older wood
The Turkana most believe and value Esokon as a good source of tooth brush. The bark contains an antibiotic that keeps the mouth clean and prevents tooth decay. Being readily available, brushing their teeth at all times gives the Turkana people the cleanest bill of dental health in the country. A stick is sold in towns like Kitale at 20.00 each by young Turkana boys.
A Turkana man seated on ekicholong brushing teeth
Fruits are a good supplement of food .The ripe purple fruits are eaten whole. Large quantities are gathered and brought home, dried and stored for future use. Ripe fruits are pounded and made into a sugary ball eaten as a snack. Fruits in June –July in Lodwar
Leaves and young shoots are valued more as camel and goat forage. Esokon is also a good source of nectar. Wood is sometimes used for firewood and charcoal but it should not be used for cooking meat as it leaves a foul taste. Esokon a` cool’ tree is commonly used in ritual activity. The tree is used in making fire for heating the branding irons which the head of the family uses it to mark faces of all animals. Its wood is soft, white, easy to work and is not liable to termite attack hence used for making coffins and clubs. The resin that drips from the tree is supposedly useful for making varnish.
Other tribes like the Pokot and Maasai use the roots boiled and mixed with soup as a tonic and for stronger bones. The mixture is said to cure fever and colds.
Librarian, Kitale Museum Library