Monday, May 12, 2014

Baobab - My Favorite Tree and its Juice

I’ve always been fascinated with big trees. Growing up in Colombia’s Cauca Valley, the beauty and magnitude of the Ceivas (Ceiba Pentandra) tree was an essential part of my childhood and its fantasy. I would see these giants on our trips around the countryside and think that they must be in charge of the forest: so tall and thick, they must control where other trees grow and animals dwell. I wasn’t the only one creating mythologies out of Ceibas. These giants were also sacred to indigenous cultures such as the Mayans, who thought that Ceibas were the link connecting heaven with the underworld - Xibalba.

Across the Atlantic, the Ceibas’ older cousins are equally fascinating. Growing in hot and dry climate, the baobabs (Adansonia Digitata) are part of the quintessential African landscape of most countries in the sub-Saharan region. Like the Mayans, many African cultures consider these remarkable trees a Godsend. In addition to being a revered meeting place for the community, the Baobab has plenty to offer for those living in harsh climates. Many cultures pound its bark to create ropes and textiles. The white flowers and green foliage are also edible. The water-proof fruit shells are hard as metal, and many people use them as calabashes or containers.

But if you already have a clothing and kitchenware and are not too keen on eating flowers, Baobab Juice is for you! Each fruit has dozens of small seeds covered in a yellowish pulp. This vitamin C-rich pulp makes a refreshing, effervescent drink called ‘Baobab Lemonade’ (despite the lack of actual lemons in the juice). Here in Malawi it’s Baobab season and I enjoy the juice so much that I decided to try making it at home. 

Here is how:
  1. Travel to Africa and go to a place where it is hot and dry
  2. Wait until the end of the rainy season when Baobabs start to fruit
  3. Go to a local market and buy at least three large Baobab fruits
  4. Find a hard surface, hold the fruits with a towel and smack them against the ground (hard!)
  5. Try again, but harder!!!
  6. Once they crack, open the outer shell to expose the seeds
  7. Pull out all the pulp and put it in a big pot of warm water
  8. Stir for a couple of minutes and then leave it sitting for a couple hours
  9. Once the brown seeds are visible and the pulp is completely dissolved, drain the juice
  10. In a blender, mix the juice with some lemon juice (here are the lemons!), sugar, and ice
  11. Enjoy!