Baobab Trees

I think I am going to take a quick break from my discussion of my trip to the Gambia and instead talk about Baobab trees which I think are culturally interesting. (And I do have a whole picture album dedicated to them which I am trying to upload with everything else) Anyways Baobab trees (as an overarching statement though not necessarily true to everyone) are to West African culture as the Pepul trees are to North Indian culture.

These trees are giants that live and grow for hundreds of years. They are rather hard to describe but it looks like the branches are the roots of the tree, see the pictures. As they get older their insides hollow out and during the wet season water is stored inside. In the past Griots (Mandinka oral historians) used to be buried in them. Many animals make their homes in the younger trees as they are starting to hollow out. The fruit that comes from them is usually called Monkeybread (they like to be eaten by monkeys) or miracle fruit.

The fruit is, when ripe, about as long as your forearm and 6-8 inches in diameter. The husk is hard, wood-like, and covered with a green fur. This fur if it touches your skin will cause it to itch. the inside fruit is dry. I can't explain the consistency other than it melts in your mouth from its dry dusty state to a sour sweet softness around a small hard brown seed. They make a drink of it here if you don't want to eat the fruit raw, which is good too. Your pour hot water over it and all the flesh immediately comes off the seed. You soak this with sugar and fruit usually both banana and apple then strain it and you get this amazing drink.

The reason this fruit is called miracle fruit is because it is believed to have properties that will heal. It is used by some local healers for stomach bugs and upsets as well as fevers. I will say on my third day in the Gambia in the house I got a very upset stomach and nauseous and I decided to feel better, since I had a bag of the fruit around, to just try that. About twenty minutes and 15 seeds later my stomach was fine no issues regarding anything. With one exception every time I have gotten any stomach issue the baobab fruit has fixed it.

Anyways there is a local story to why the tree looks like it does when I can hear it again I will record it and add it here.

1 comment:

bellinghamster said...

Can you get baobab in the states? Sounds like a great fruit to have around.