Saturday, July 29, 2006

Make Mine Mawuyu

Perhaps you read Le Petit Prince as a high-school French student, or its English translation, The Little Prince, as a child. If so, then you are already familiar with the unmistakable "upside-down" shape of the baobab tree. Far, far from Saint-Exupéry's make-believe asteroid, the tree's broad, thick trunk and comparatively spindly branches can also be seen dotting the hot, dry savannas of Africa and Australia. Unlike its literary incarnation as a promulgating pest, the real-life baobab is one of the most useful trees on the planet. Its leaves, seeds, fruit, bark and trunk can all serve human purposes, from food to clothing to medicine to shelter. Just been shot by a poisonous arrow? Neutralize the toxins with baobab extract. Pantry out of cream of tartar? Try the pulp of the baobab fruit as a substitute. This fruit pulp can also make a tasty, lemon-scented porridge, which is how, today, I ate my very first baobab by-product.

A month ago, Sampson, our basket-weaving friend, brought us two baobab fruits from his rural home. They were the color of pâté and shaped like ostrich eggs. The skin was hard and coated with a velvety fuzz. Mark and I could pick up the fruits and give them a very satisfying, maraca-like shake. Beyond that, we had no idea what to do with them. So, they sat on our countertop. And sat and sat and sat.

This morning, Dorothy suggested that baobab pulp would make an excellent addition to our cream-of-wheat. After chuckling at my proposal to cut the baobab open with a knife, she picked one fruit up and smashed it several times against the brick wall. Inside the thick, fibrous shell was some pale-yellow powder, most of it encrusted around pellet-sized black seeds. With Dorothy’s encouragement, we popped the seeds in our mouths – the taste reminded us of a mild lemon sourball. We scooped out about half a cup of the pulp and seeds from the fruit, and added it to 3 cups of just-about-to-boil milk, along with a pinch of salt and a generous 2/3 cup of cream-of-wheat. After a few minutes of stirring, we had a creamy porridge, ready to serve with a dollop of honey.

If, to your mind, seeds suck all the joy out of a plump, juicy grape, then I'll have an uphill battle convincing you of the benefit of tossing baobab seeds in your porridge. And if cream-of-wheat is a dish you only plan to resort to when your teeth fall out, then I probably should have warned you to avoid reading this entry in the first place. Otherwise, trust me – the baobab seeds act as a thickener and the pulp adds a ton of Vitamin C to your breakfast meal, along with a light lemon flavor. Baobab fruit will no longer sit and sit and sit on our counter.

This post is an entry in Weekend Breakfast Blogging, excellently hosted by Saffron Trail.


Anna said...

this sounds quite yummy. i like the idea of a lemony fleshed fruit.

and porridge is great, whether you've got teeth or not!!!

i really like your blog. it's great to get some insight into african food. i'm going to add you to my blogroll.

misswadzi said...

hey there reading this reminds me of how much i love mawuyu. im Zimbabwean living abroad in aussie and i miss mawuyu one of the best things ever. ive always eaten them by just popping it into my mouth and its delicious. my boyfriend just told me there might be here in aussie at an african market ill give it a try. good post ill try the porridge recipe