The Afrostyrax is a very small plant genus in the equally small Huaceae family, with only three plant species, all three of which only occur in Africa:
- the Afrostyrax kamerunensis
- the Afrostyrax lepidophyllus and
- the Afrostyrax macranthus
They have in common that all parts of these plants have a penetrating onion or garlic scent. For that reason, both the bark and the fruits of the Afrostyrax lepidophyllus are used in the kitchen, especially in Ghana, Cameroon and Congo, where the tree origins.
Common names are country onion or bush onion, but in the many languages in this part of Africa you will find just as many other names, including hiomi, which is mainly used to indicate the bark, and ngô.
The popularity of the ngô hiomi encourages market mechanisms that can threaten the natural habitat. Because the yield is subject to strong fluctuations (just like the price), there is a tendency to harvest the nuts too intensively in times of scarcity.
There is a lot of attention for this. The harvest of the garlic nut is classified as sustainable in various studies and is critically monitored given the fragile status of the Afrostyrax lepidophyllus on the International Red List of Endangered Plant Species.
In addition, it is encouraged to plant the trees, including under the auspices of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation ERuDeF. The replant is very successful, for example near the Mt Cameroon National Park, where many farming communities depend on the harvest of the garlic nut.