When I saw my first Baobab tree in Zimbabwe, I stood in front of it in awe. The tree gave me a “feeling”…I had never even heard of the tree, but upon first glance I knew there was something different about this tree, something very special.
The first thing I noticed was its size. The tree is huge — it’s so huge that houses have been built inside the trunk. And then I noticed how different it looked — odd and beautiful at the same time…the branches are gnarly and look like roots that have been torn out of the ground.
The Baobab Tree sits in the center of many villages in Africa and is referred to as the “Tree of Life”. It holds deep spiritual significance to the communities that live around it. Stories of the baobab are as old as man, so it’s only fitting that the word baobab literally means “the time when man began”.
Rights of passage, spiritual ceremonies, village meetings, and shade seeking happen beneath these massive trees that are hundreds to thousands of years old, and they are so revered in their communities that many trees receive human names or become known as Um, which means mother. It is believed that the spirits of ancestors become a part of the trees and provide the nourishment that comes from the water they store (a tree can store up to 30,000 gallons of water at once), their leaves, their seeds, and especially the dried pulp found in their fruit.
The fruit pulp is traditionally used medicinally to treat stomach aches, fevers, and malaria. Within the villages, it is also widely thought to cure hangovers and is used as a pain reliever for aches and pains, as well as arthritis. A UN study found that the pulp mixed with water was more effective in rehydrating children with severe diarrhea than World Health Organization remedies. It is also commonly used as a milk substitute.
Given the nutritional benefits, consumers around the world are purchasing the baobab powder, which is providing much needed income to the communities that live around Baobab trees. Harvesters sustainably harvest the fruit when it falls to the ground and the pulp is ground up to make a powder that can be added to smoothies, pancakes, and anything that would benefit from its tart and tangy taste.
Recent nutritional studies have given further insight into the fruit’s nutritional benefits which include:
More antioxidants than acai or Goji berries. It blows nearly every other superfood out of the water according to its ORAC score. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Nutrient-dense heavy-hitter. Baobab has potassium, Vitamin C, and is a source of Vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium.
Immune boosting. Baobab fruit has an incredible amount of Vitamin C with 3-5 times the amount of an orange. One serving of Baobab powder (two tablespoons) has 25% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin C.
Prebiotic. A healthy gut is now recognized as being crucial to optimal health. You’ve heard of probiotics, but just as important are prebiotics which help that good bacteria grow in your gut. One serving of Baobab powder also has 24% of your daily recommended dietary fiber which aids in digestion.
Fiber-heavy. Baobab fruit is almost 50% fiber, half of which is soluble. Soluble fiber can help control blood glucose levels, improve blood cholesterol levels and heart health, help you feel fuller for longer, reduce visceral fat and slow down digestion. Soluble fiber could also help decrease the likelihood of insulin resistance.
Given these nutritional benefits, consumers around the world are purchasing the baobab powder, which is providing much needed income to the communities that live around Baobab trees. Harvesters, who are mostly women, are using the income to pay for school fees, to buy wells, and to generally improve their quality of life.
And now that the trees also have an economic value in addition to the spiritual and nutritional value in the communities, they are being protected to an even greater extent, meaning that man (and woman) can give back to the tree that’s given so much to them.
I created Bumbleroot to get more Baobab out in the world and to provide more economic opportunities for the women (and men) who harvest it. We’re committed to dreaming up and creating unique and healthy products using baobab and other wild harvested foods from around the world. Check out our baobab powder and other products at www.bumblerootfoods.com
A former business consultant and policy advisor on agriculture to a U.S. Senator, Sara founded Bumbleroot to promote unique wild-harvested and sustainably grown foods that contribute to a wilder and healthier food system. She can be found on Instagram at @sarabumble