The Baobab tree grows in low-lying areas in Africa and Australia. Other names include boab, boaboa, tabaldi, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree.
The tree is certainly very different from any other. When bare of leaves, the spreading branches of the Baobab look like roots sticking up into the air, rather as if it had been planted upside-down.
It is also known as a Tree of Life and it is Africa’s super fruit, and commonly spotted in the rural part of the Gambia; though few can be found in metropolitan towns. It has a thick sturdy trunk, large seed pods and white flowers. It is uniquely known for its ability to dry out on its branches. Usefully, the baobab tree provides homes for animals and birds in its branches and holes, and it is quite a long living soul – that can live for many hundred years and still the fruits are fresh, wild and plumbed. The African Baobab Tree is a remarkable species; not because of its size and lifespan but also in the amazing way it grows multiple fused stems. Away from that, the Baobab Tree has several benefits, including nutritional value as the fruit contains important minerals and vitamins.
• The leaves of the baobab tree are rich in iron; it can be boiled and eaten like spinach. As in some part of Africa, the leaves are edible. There is a local soup traditionally prepared from the baobab tree leaves – a Mandinkas diet called “Naada”.
• The seed pods are used for making cups and bowls for drinking palm wine in some part of Africa.
• The content of the large seed pods, also known as ‘monkey bread’ can be made into ice drinks [baobab juice]. This juice is locally prepared with the mixture of other fruits such as cocoa, apple or pumpkin etc. to add up its nutrients.
• The tough bark like leather can be used to make rope and baskets.
In addition, and most importantly, there are health benefits of consuming baobab fruits as a diet. The baobab is not only an important source of food, but it also acts such as heart health; it can prevent cancer, diabetes, helps in weight loss etc. The baobab fruit [seed pods] is a magical fruit with wealth of benefits, found in most parts in the Gambia. In the provinces, the baobab fruits also serve as source of income for certain young people involved in trading it. This is done by fetching a good number of the fruit shell, split it and put the seed pods in a container until a full bag of rice is filled and sold it in their weekly markets, locally called ‘LUMO’ at a very reasonable price – this is like a harvest season for them just as the groundnut is for the farmers.
Author: Lamin Njie
Photo: Jasmina K.