Bonongwe – Spiny Amaranth – Ilex paraguariensis (Mate) Seeds
Maté is a small, slow-growing, evergreen tree with a dense, oblong crown. It can reach a height of 15 metres but is more likely to be 4 – 8 metres tall with a short bole 30 – 40cm in diameter.
The plant has been used as a stimulating drink for hundreds of years and is a more common drink than tea (Camellia sinsnsis) in S. America. It is both cultivated and harvested from the wild in its native S. America, and is also cultivated on the Iberian peninsula, and is sold in countries around the world.
A plant of the subtropics and tropics, also able to be grown in the warm temperate zone. It is found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 17 – 26°c, but can tolerate 12 – 30°c. Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -6°c or lower, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 – 2,000mm, but tolerates 700 – 2,500mm.
Prefers a sunny position, also succeeding in light shade. Succeeds in a range of well-drained soils. Prefers a rich, slightly acid soil in light shade. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 – 7, tolerating 5.8 – 8.
Young plants are very slow to establish when planted out.
Plants are dioecious. Both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
A stimulating drink is made from the leaves. The young leaves are harvested in a similar manner to tea, then dried, finely ground and packaged. Traditionally, the leaves are brewed in a similar manner to tea, but the brew is drunk directly from the spout of the teapot, or from a gourd or from a glass using a tube known as a bombilla.
The mineral rich leaves contain xanthine derivatives, including about 1.5% caffeine plus theobromine and theophylline, and up to 16% tannins. They are stimulant, diuretic, antirheumatic. They are said to have the power to increase intellectual lucidity and vigour.
The leaves are used internally in the treatment of headaches, migraine, neuralgic and rheumatic pain, fatigue and mild depression. They have also been used in the treatment of diabetes.
The leaves are harvested when the berries are ripe, they are heated over a wood fire, ground into a powder then stored in sacks for 12 months before being used
Seed – very slow, taking 2 – 3 years to germinate. It is best to store the seed for 4 – 7 months in warm, humid sand to allow the seed to finish ripening before sowing the seed in a shaded seedbed. Germination should then occur within a few days. Seedlings should be ready to plant out into their permanent positions 10 – 11 months later.