Miraculous Little Baobab Seeds

Baobab, Fruit

Baobab, Fruit

Baobab seeds are embedded in the cream-colored fruit pulp and the red-brown fibers in the hard pericarp. The outer shell has to be cracked open manually first in oder to collect pulp, fibers and seeds. In a next step the seeds are sieved, washed and left to dry in the sun.

Hard Shell, Valuable Core

The seed coat is approximately 0.1 millimeters thick and not easy to peel to get to the kernel. Traditionally, seeds were treated and used differently depending on the region. Seeds can be consumed as a whole or the inner kernel only. They can remain raw or be roasted, dried in the sun, boiled for several hours, fermented, or be ground.

Open Baobab Fruit

Open Baobab Fruit

The seeds in the seed coat are highly nutritious and have a slightly almond-like taste. They are rich in oils and fats, vitamins (A, E), high-quality proteins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and other minerals, dietary fiber, saturated (30%) and unsaturated (70%) fatty acids and amino acids such as lysine.

Baobab Seeds

Baobab Seeds

If some fruit pulp remains on the seeds, they are appreciated particularly by children. The drops have a slightly sour taste similar to that of citrus fruit.

In order to get to the kernel the seeds are cooked or roasted and then crushed. Roasted seeds can be eaten like peanuts. As a coffee substitute whole seeds were roasted, ground and brewed with hot water. The powder can be used as seasoning for soups or other dishes.

Popular in Traditional Healing

In traditional medicine, the seeds were used to treat various diseases. Ground seeds were mixed into a paste and used to treat gum problems and diseased teeth. The Wakamba in Kenya used a paste to treat aching joints. In the eastern Zambezi region in Namibia (formerly the Caprivi) very thin and malnourished people were treated with high calorie seed kernels. For that the seeds were crushed, mixed with herbs and cooked to a decoction. The consumption was supposed to result in weight gain.

In South Africa powdered seeds were used to treat children with hiccups. In Central Africa diarrhea was cured with a combination of extracts from the seeds and fruit pulp. Seeds were also helpful in treating stomach and kidney problems.

Baobab Seed – an Antidote to Strophanthus

Hunters used extracts from baobab seeds (or bark extracts) as antidote to neutralise the poisonous Stophanthus applied to arrowheads for hunting. Strohpantus has an impact on the nervous system of the prey taken. The meat of animals killed with the poison could have a similar effect on humans consuming it.

In former times people burned fruit shells, seeds and red fibers. The developing smoke kept away flies. From the residues potash was obtained. It was used as a fertilizer or as an additive for soap.

Baobab Oil – a Natural Beauty Booster

The oil extracted from baobab seeds becomes more and more popular on the international market for its values in skin and hair care. In South Africa the oil is cold pressed out of the seeds by means of an oil press. It only needs to be filtered and bottled. Additional processing steps or additives are not necessary – the oil remains naturally pure.

The precious oil can be applied to skin directly or used in creams, lotions, masks and baths. It has a moisturizing effect to the skin, absorbs quickly and relieves dry skin. Due to its comedogenic properties it has a positive effect on acne, psoriasis and eczema. Pregnant women use the oil to keep the skin smooth and to protect it from stretch marks. Baobab oil is used to make soap. In Africa, people use the oil for cooking. On the European market it is approved as ingredient for cosmetics but not for food consumption yet.

After the oil is pressed out of the seeds the remaining press cake can be used as animal feed for cattle, sheep and goats. The pressing residues have a high nutritional value – similar to that of legumes.

Baobabs in Need of Care

Although baobabs do not grow on plantations – nevertheless seedlings are grown to be planted near houses and settlements in Africa. During their first three years they need sufficient water and must be protected from hungry cattle, goats and sheep. Only when they grow three meters and higher, they are safe from browsing animals. People need to have a lot of patience to see the first harvest of their baobabs – it takes up to 20 or 25 years for baobabs to bear their first fruit – depending on where they grow.

A Baobab – Homegrown

Baobabs are suitable as bonsai in flower pots. However, the cultivation of seeds requires a lot of patience, too. In the wild germination of the seeds is less than 20% due to the hard shell. But this can be helped. The hard shells can be scratched or sawn open. Cracking the shell gently with secateurs serves the purpose as well. The opened seeds need to be soaked in warm water. Instead of cutting or cracking them, the seeds might as well be boiled in hot water for approximately 5 minutes – which is said to serve the same effect. In nature, the hard shell helps the seeds to keep their ability to germinate for a long time. They can sprout even after years of lying dormant in th soil. Older seeds seem to germinate faster than younger seeds.

22 Replies to “Miraculous Little Baobab Seeds”

  1. I have some old pods and wondered if the seed would still be viable. Also, could the fruit be used after many years?
    How long would they last?

    • Hi Paddy, thanks for posting your question. The seeds keep longer than the powder. It is difficult to say whether you can still use the powder. How old are the fruit? I know the powder lasts quite a while. It is important to know whether the outer shell was/still is intact (if there is a crack, the powder could be contaminated with dirt or fungus etc.) and how the fruit were kept (dry place…). With the seeds: you could still try to plant them. Scratch the outer seed shell and soak seeds in lukewarm water over night. Then plant in sandy soil. Hope I could help – good luck with your plan! Heike

    • Dear Sulaimon Robiat Olamide, thank you for your question. I would proceed with the seeds in terms of roasting as I would with coffee beans: put them on a cooking grate and put above fire but do not put into fire. It is difficult to say how long you have to roast – depends on different factors and I am afraid you have to try that out yourself. Make sure they do not get too much heat and burn. And regarding boiling the seeds: it depends on what you want to use them for. Best wishes for your seminar. Regards, Heike

    • Dear Valentine, thank you for your post & sorry for the late response – it has slipped my attention. Baobab seeds were and still are used as coffee replacements in some areas. The taste is different and I suspect that if people want to drink “real” coffee they try to get it rather than a replacement. In addition: if everybody goes for coffee based on baobab seed – no seed would be left for baobab reproduction. But other than that I cannot think of other disadvantages. But maybe you were looking for other information?

    • Dear Mudau Michael, thank you for your question. Are you referring to coffee sold in supermarkets? Without being an expert in terms of selling coffee I would suspect that roasted baobab seeds used instead of “real” coffee beans are available on local markets in rural areas which to me are commercial, too – on a “smaller” scale. So far I have not come across information that baobab coffee from baobab seeds is available in commercial markets on a larger scale. I am not sure if that answers your question. Best regards, Heike Pander

    • Hello Anna, sorry but I do not know the answer to your question. Animals like elephants, antelopes, monkeys and others do not have a problem with digesting seeds and humans can eat the seeds, too. Best regards, Heike

    • Hello Talent, thank you for your inquiry regarding chewing seeds and possible impact on teeth. I know that in some areas the inside – the kernel – of the seeds (without the shell) is pounded and worked into a paste that is given to people to gain weight because it is very nutritious. I have never heard of anybody who has eaten/chewed on whole seeds. The seed shell is quite strong and you might hurt your teeth by chewing on them. In some areas the whole seeds are pressed to get oil which is very good for the skin. The remains/draff is used to feed livestock. With respect to health in general: as I said, people use the kernels but without the shells. I do not have more information on what will happen if you chew the whole seeds… Best regards, Heike

  2. I have 05 questions on Baobab seeds

    01st How can I De-Shell the hard brown seeds to have access to the Nut or Kernel? Is there a De-Shelling machine that can crack the hard brown shell to have access to the nut or kernel?

    02nd May you please explain in great detail what Roasting and Boiling does to the 0.1mm Hard Brown Seed Shell? Does this soften the shell so that it is easy to peel or De-Shell it?

    03rd When you say Baobab Coffee…!!! How is the Coffee made from the Baobab Brown Seed? I am thinking it is roasted then the Shells are separated from the nut/kernel. The Shells are then crushed or ground or pulverized into powder… Anyway I am not sure about my theory What happen after roasting the entire brown seed? Is the entire Baobab Brown Seed ground into powder to look like normal powdered or granulated coffee we all know? Or is the entire Baobab Brown Seed pulverized using a blender to make it powder?

    04th Is the Baobab Coffee soluble in hot water when brewed into boiled water just like normal coffee?

    05th Since the brown seed shell is so hard… How many years can the Baobab Brown Seed stay fresh/good before it gets bad? I have Baobab Brown Seeds that I collected from about 5years or 6years back… Are they still good?

    Thank You

    Regards

    Mophma

    • Hello Mophma, thank you for your inquiry. I have sent you a mail in response to your questions. Best regards, Heike Pander

  3. Good morning
    I have couple of questions

    How can I de-shell the hard brown seeds to have access to the Nut or Kernel? Is there a De-Shelling machine that can crack the hard brown shell to have access to the nut or kernel?
    When you say Baobab Coffee…!!! How is the Coffee made from the Baobab Brown Seed?
    Is the Baobab Coffee soluble in hot water when brewed into boiled water just like normal coffee?
    Since the brown seed shell is so hard… How many years can the Baobab Brown Seed stay fresh/good before it gets bad?

    King regards
    José

    • Hello José, thank you for your interest in my website and your questions. I have seen a de-shelling machine – some of the baobab oil producers are using that to separate the shells from the kernels – but I do not have more information on that. I write about baobab but do not produce baobab oil. For coffee: the seeds are ground and then brewed with hot/boiling water. The non-soluble parts sink to the bottom of the cup. The other day I had a comment from a baobab enthusiast who reported that he managed to germinate baobab seeds that were 30 years old.
      Hope that this answers your questions. Best regards, Heike Pander

  4. Hello Heike,

    Please I have a few questions for you.

    I would like to know whether the baobab seeds have to be roasted before extracting the oil. Or the raw seeds can be pressed with a cold pressed machine to get the oil?

    Also, if the oil is cold pressed, what is its shelf life?

    • Dear Akosua Poku, thank you for your inquiry about baobab. I am not a producer of baobab oil – you would have to contact one of the producers. As far as I know, the seeds do not have to be roasted before the oil can be extracted. Best regards, Heike Pander

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