Adansonia digitata is widely distributed throughout the semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The trees figure prominently into the cultures of people who live where it grows. From highly nutritious food products, to fiber, medicine, water storage and animal forage, Baobab has earned the moniker “Tree of Life”. From the Western perspective, this would be the ‘practical’ value of Baobab. For African people, the practical goes well beyond the material.
Traditional African animist spiritual belief most often incorporates the Earth’s natural provenance, and infuses it with ritual. Among Otammari people in the Atacora region of northern Benin, Baobabs represent ancient settlements, and the spirits of their ancestral owners become part of the trees. Often, animal skulls, wooden ‘fetiche’ assemblies, tokens of the harvest and other significant items can be seen attached to the trunks or amassed at the foot of the trees. Village meetings and ceremonial rites of passage integrate the Baobab. We believe this to significantly add to the intrinsic value of Atacora’s Baobab products.
Traditional Cooking Methods
The Baobab Tree provides myriad useful products for human consumption and utility. During the rainy season, the young leaves are used as a nutritious and delicious vegetable. In the Atacora region of Benin, they are cooked into a sauce in combination with traditional “mustard” made from the fermented seeds of the Nèrè tree (Parkia biglobosa). The sauce is very sticky, like okra, and is eaten with porridge made from sorghum, millet, corn or fonio. Baobab seeds are fermented and made into a protein rich, delicious sauce that is often consumed on the occaision of ceremonies, or for specific work activities. Baobab Fruit Pulp (Superfruit Powder in its crude form) is eaten as a healthy candy, diluted in water as an energy drink, and mixed in porridges and sauces.