29 December 2010

The Beautiful Baobab Tree

Baobab Tree at Sunset (Senegal 2010)
I don't know why but the beautiful Baobab tree has left an impression on me.  I can't say too many trees or plants (or flowers for that matter) have ever left me wanting more.  This African tree is steeped with rich tradition  by many native people (unfortunately not much in the way of honoring God because many natives pray and even make offerings to it).  Some Senegalese believe they are making offerings to their ancestors' spirits by leaving dishes of food.  They break the dishes so the food runs to the ground to be eaten by the spirits.  They have even been used as burial sites once the trunks are hollowed out.

Fun fact: the Baobab tree has gone Disney!  In Disney's Lion King it is know as the "Tree of Life".  I can see how the nickname came into being... this ginormous tree has many attributes (yes, I just used a word that probably doesn't exist)... besides storing water in it's enormously wide trunk (up to 60 feet in girth), it's so big that it has been known to house animals as well as people for shelter.  These trees have been  measured up to 75 feet tall.  It's bark has cork-like characteristics making it fire-resistant.  The cork is used for cloth and rope and unlike most trees they don't produce internal rings (for dating), they need to be radio-carbon tested to determine its age, which can be up to 2000 years!

It even produces fruit, of which I had the likes of trying.  The fruit is gourd-like, filled with dark brown seeds (the size of gumballs) covered by a white, milky-looking, dry pulp.  The edible portion of this fruit is this white "stuff".  A common name for this fruit is "monkey bread".  Just pop a seed in your mouth and let the pulp dissolve. Then spit out the seed!  Easy enough!  This fruit is high in vitamin C and aids in stopping diarrhea.  Add water to the pulp and voilà a drink very similar to lemonade.
Monkey Bread fruit hangs from trees 

Inside the gourd shaped fruit

By grinding down the leaves into a powder, it gets added to many dishes making it a spice as well.  What more could you want from a tree?  I'm just going to have to say it... it's my favorite tree!

And thanks to Charlize Theron and her Africa Outreach Project, if you buy these Tom's shoes you are helping improve the health, education, and social development of high schoolers in South Africa.

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