At the heart of most genesis stories worldwide there grows a food-bearing tree that provided vitally important sustenance to our earliest ancestors. The Chinese revered their plum tree, while the Germanic tribes of northern Europe imagined the great spirit of life coursing through the limbs of the walnut. Vanquished only in this world, King Arthur was spirited away to Avalon—the Isle of Apples—where he awaits the goodness of our kind to overcome our more destructive tendencies. Meanwhile, in southern Africa, the unusually fruitful marula tree (one tree in Pretoria produces one ton of fruit annually!) continues to cover many grateful people with its nutrient-dense and medicine-rich branches.
What does it do?
With so many useful products emanating from its fruit, nut, leaf and bark, it is easy to see why the marula tree is sacred in so many places. The soft wood is readily carved into drums, stools, canoes, bowls and beehives. Medicine that banishes diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism and the ill effects of insect bites is wrought from its astringent bark. The leaves are brought into the service of healing spider bites, burns and abscesses. The marula fruit and the kernels within have been consumed for over 12,000 years. The archaeological evidence found in just one location--Pomongwe Cave in Zimbabwe—amounts to over 24 million fruits eaten on site. High in vitamin C—and thus offering protection against scurvy—as well as potassium, calcium and magnesium, marula fruits are savored by humans as well as by elephants, giraffe, kudu and warthogs. Virgin marula oil extracted from the kernels is rich in antioxidants and oleic acid. This edible oil rivals the richness of the best virgin olive oils, and its place in numerous cosmetic products to enhance healthy skin has been assured.
About the herb
Drought-resistant, the stately marula tree stands tall—up to 60 feet—in twenty-nine countries. Only the female bears fruit, but the male shares center stage with an annual show of its lovely flowers. Legend has it that the tea brewed from the bark of a female tree will infuse the expectant mother with a girl child, while the male tree endows the patiently waiting couple with a boy.
Tasty, nutritious juices made from marula fruit are commercially available, as are edible seed oils worthy of dressing your favorite salad. The oil contains iodine for a healthy thyroid gland, along with a hefty 28 percent in protein. Marula leaves and branches are boiled to produce a cough-suppressing tea.