What is it?
Baobab is one of the best known trees of Africa. Baobab fruit is super-packed of healthy stuff; has more antioxidants than goji berries and more calcium than milk. It has more iron than red meat, more potassium than a banana and more magnesium than spinach – this is why the locals call it the tree of life.
Baobab trees grows in hot, dry lowland areas such as the Rift Valley. The branches of baobab spread as a crown and are bare of leaves for most of the year. The branches are almost reminiscent of a root system, hence the baobab’s common name the upside down tree or a ghost tree.
The stout grey trunk of baobab tree can reach enormous sizes; in some cases over 25 metres in circumference. The baobab belongs to its own botanical family, the Bombacaceae and it is extremely long-lived. It is common for trees to live to over 1000 years and some specimens are believed to be as old as 3000 years. The oldest baobab tree of Zimbabwe grows in Victoria Falls is about 2000 yrs old.
Baobab fruit has an oval shape and is formed from white flowers that are pollinated by bats. Bees produce an almost white honey from baobab flowers. The fruit has a hard, woody shell with a velvety yellow-green coating. There are large, oil-rich seeds, the fruit powder and fibers inside the shell.
The fruit is harvested in Southern Africa between February and May. Baobab fruit powder forms naturally inside the fruits of the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata). It has a tangy flavor due to its content of citric, malic and tartaric acids and it is exceptionally nutritious containing high natural levels of vitamin C.
In Southern Africa people use the fruit powder mixing it with water and sugar to make a refreshing sherbet-like drink. The powder is also used for porridge, sauces and other dishes and as a substitute for cream of tartar in baking, and a fermenting agent in traditional brews.
In some communities people eat the leaves of the baobab, which can be pounded to make a relish. The bark is fibrous and is used to make ropes, colorful mats, baskets and fishing nets.