A new ‘super’ fruit has just been given GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the FDA so expect to see the fruit of the baobab tree making an appearance some time soon.
The massive baobab tree grows across the arid savannahs of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Known as the Upside Down Tree due to its strange appearance looking like its roots are protruding up into the air, the baobab tree can live for thousands of years and grow up to 100 feet tall. The fruits are a greenish brown in color and beneath their nut like shell grows a pulp which eventually dries into a white crumbly mass resembling chunks of powdery white bread.
In Africa they call it the ‘Tree of Life’ as it is renowned for its health giving properties where they use it as a curative for many ailments including diarrhea and measles. Traces of baobab fruit have also been found in tombs of the Ancient Egyptians who had them transported to their country to be used in the treatment of dysentery and fevers. The fruits powers lie in their very high levels of vitamin c, calcium and antioxidants. With six times the vitamin c of an orange, double the level of calcium as in milk and twice the capacity of antioxidants as pomegranates and cranberries the fruit of the baobab tree seem certain to make an impact in the booming market in healthy foods.
The fruit has a tart and tangy flavor that is said to resemble the jackfruit. The dried fruit pulp that is being exported from Africa is expected to be used in cereal bars, blended drinks and many other ready prepared forms for the health food market. In Africa, they mix the dried fruit with milk or water to make a deliciously refreshing drink, they also use it to make a type of porridge and as it has a very high level of pectin (23%), jams and chili sauces are also popular. The leaves of the tree itself are eaten as a vegetable and the bark can be made into rope, fishing nets and roof tiles. Even the seeds can be ground up to make oil and the leftovers from that process are used as a thickener for soups. The baobab tree’s botanical name is Adansonia digitata named after the French botanist Michel Adanson who stated that “it is probably the most useful tree”.
There is one part of the baobab tree that isn’t used however and this is the flowers, for as the local saying goes “if you pick the flower you will get eaten by a lion”.
photos courtesy of flickr David Thyberg, literary gal