Every African probably has that one local remedy that is touted by culture and elders as the cure to almost all ills, but what happens when this testimony is repeated by a large number of people, through a great spanning of years and even features in a great many articles while you’re still hoping that one of your friends writes about you. Well, introducing the baobab tree, nicknamed the upside-down tree, revered in Senegal and a good number of sub-Saharan countries besides, baobabs have been around for a long time.
The baobab tree can grow up to 30m high and it’s trunk reach up to 15m around, Zimbabwe actually possesses one that is so large, 40 people can be sheltered inside. It’s been discovered via carbon dating of some specimens that some baobabs are least 3000 years old and no wonder, seeing as they are pretty difficult to kill. Stripping off their barks simply prompts them to form a new bark and continue growing, when they do die, they rot from the inside and suddenly collapse.
The tree is steeped in history and legend, one of such legends of its origins have it that the god Thora took a dislike to the baobab growing in his garden and tossed it over the wall of paradise after which it landed below on earth, upside down but still alive, and continued to grow. In another popular myth, the gods got so irritated by the vanity of the baobab, as it tosses it branches, flicks its flowers and brags to other creatures about its superlative beauty, that they uproot it and upended it to teach it a lesson in humility.
Some other stories posit that if you pick a flower from a baobab tree you will be eaten by a lion, but drinking water in which the baobab seeds have been soaked will keep you safe from crocodile attacks. A lot of people are unaware that not only does the baobab tree have a fruit, but it’s fruit is so nutrient dense and manages through the storage abilities of the tree, to still be abundant even in the dry season. The gourd like fruits are six to eight inches long and hang by long stems off the branch and is also known as monkey bread. It has six times more vitamin C than an orange, 50 percent more calcium than spinach and is a plentiful source of anti-oxidants.
It is possible to crack the hard skin and eat the white sweet and sour tasting fruit straight up or enjoy the juice by soaking in water, offer it as a light drink with sugar and water or just dry it and grind into a powder. The other parts of the tree have also been utilized in other ways including; using the bark to make rope and baskets, the roots being ground to a red power useful as a dye and a treatment for malaria and bathing babies in fruit infusions to soften their skin.
A recently published article in National Geographic features even more amazing findings about this “Tree of Life” as well as recipes to some healthful drinks made with the fruit, so hopefully soon enough we’ll be lifting our Tropical Baobab Smoothie cups in cheers to god Thora for this awesome tree.