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The benefits of baobab: What to know about the superfood

The whole baobab plant is edible in some form and a good source of many important vitamins and minerals.
Open baobab fruit as new natural food
The baobab fruit was a natural and organic superfood long before we had the lexicon to describe such things.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

Have you ever seen a monkey-bread tree?

It’s the tree of life — the tree from which our ancestors were able to get sustenance all year round because its fruit is the only one in the world that dries naturally on the branch and can be eaten in its entirety. Native to Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia, the tree has also been introduced to other regions like Asia.

Baobab trees grow in 32 African countries and can live for up to 5,000 years.Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images

After the funky-looking, papaya-shaped, coconut-sized fruit bakes in the sun for six months, its prickly, fuzzy green coating, similar to kiwi skin, transforms into a smooth, brown, hard shell. A firm tap with a hammer releases its gold. The fruit was a natural and organic superfood long before we had the lexicon to describe such things — long before colonialism and editorial food trends, Africans lived, farmed and ate organically, and still do today, in most cases of small-scale farming.

Baobab trees produce a large fruit that is commonly consumed and appreciated for its citrus-like flavor.Rosita So Image / Getty Images

Essentially, the whole plant is edible in some form and a good source of many important vitamins and minerals. The leaves, rich in calcium and high-quality proteins that are easily digested, are eaten traditionally as a leafy green in stews. The fruit can be used in a variety of ways: When fresh, the pulp is high in vitamin C, antioxidants and several key minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Dried, it is often boiled and used to make a broth or tea. Powdered, baobab's most common commercial form, it contains many important nutrients but is especially high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, iron and potassium. And finally, the beautiful seeds, loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients like thiamine, calcium and iron, are used to make baobab oil, which is commonly used in hair and skin products.

Baobab fruit is high in vitamin C, antioxidants and several key minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.Jirik V / Shutterstock

As a natural source of these nutrients, baobab is more bioavailable than manufactured vitamin supplements, meaning our bodies can absorb the nutrients more easily, ensuring an efficient and greater uptake.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been extolling the virtues of the baobab because I believe Africa has so much nourishment to offer — not just in its huge variety of cuisines, but also in its individual ingredients. Through my online spice shop, I’ve had cause to reflect on the impact of this: Recent conversations with my suppliers across farms in West Africa have highlighted the ongoing erasure of Blackness in these ingredients as large multinational corporations buy up our farming land, crops and ability to trade and export our ingredients. One important way we can start to decolonize the food industry and increase wealth creation for producers is to make sure we're buying African ingredients from Black-owned businesses.

The citrus-like flavor of baobab powder is highly versatile — it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.Courtesy Zoe's Ghana Kitchen

Another great place to buy baobab is Adda Blooms, a company that works with small-scale farmers, collectives and cooperatives to bring indigenous African foods to the masses. On Eating the Ancestral way

Adda Blooms CEO Abena Offeh-Gyimah said, “Living the ancestral way asks, 'What do you eat? How did you decide what to eat each day? And is there a connection to anything else outside of yourself?'"

If you want to bring this joy into your daily diet and boost your immune system with one of Africa’s finest superfoods, dive in with this super easy application:

Baobab Ginger Beer

Baobab Ginger Beer

Zoe Adjonyoh