The Tree of Life Provides, Protects and Teaches Life’s Greatest Lessons
Throughout Africa, there’s a tree called the Baobab. Most people think of Madagascar when they picture the tree, but different countries have different varieties. Senegal’s Baobab tree is shorter, but still huge and majestic, with wide, spread out branches and few or no leaves.
One fable surrounding the Baobab is that when God made the tree, it was his favorite creation. The tree knew its beauty and boasted relentlessly about it, until one day when God came down to Earth and warned her that she couldn’t boast anymore. After all, every tree is the most beautiful because they were all created by God. When the tree continued bragging about her beauty, God picked her up and put her back upside down. That’s why the mostly barren branches are at the top, because it’s actually the roots you see.
The moral of the story is not to be boastful, because at any moment, your world could be turned upside down. The tree is a symbol- a continual reminder to keep your head down and keep moving forward. No one is perfect.
Senegalese legend has it that back in the day, entire villages would be built around a Baobab tree because it provides everything the people need to survive, from shelter to food and water. The Baobab is not actually a tree, though. It is a succulent, and like succulents, it stores water in its trunk and allows it to thrive in arid environments. Despite harsh, dry conditions, the tree produces a fruit that is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world.
Bouye, the fruit it produces, can be cooked into full meals, from main courses to sauces and desserts (including my favorite!). And unlike other fruit trees, the fruit dries on the tree, with the pulp drying out inside the shell that can then be used to create a fruit powder. It’s rich in Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. Bark can be turned into rope and clothing, seeds can create oils and leaves are edible. If children have a stomachache, they’re given a drop of the fruit juice to settle their stomach.
The Baobab tree is one that grows beautifully and flourishes, even given a harsh environment.
I’ve always loved the story of the Tree of Life. In a world where we’re surrounded by things and technology, none of that sustains us. What sustains us is nature, our land and the communities we build around our natural resources.