Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.
We know that trees can help mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere. But what is less widely understood is how many of these trees can also help to bring an end to hunger and poverty.
Today, Nourishing the Planet takes a look at five varieties of tree that you have likely never heard of, but that are helping to alleviate hunger and poverty and protect the environment.
1. Black Plum: Black plums are common across tropical sub-Saharan Africa's coastal savannas and savanna woodlands. The black plum tree is not domesticated, but it is widely utilized and protected, and is often found at the center of West African villages. The black plum is useful in agroforestry and organic farming. It is nitrogen fixing, meaning it adds nitrogen to the soils it grows in. Whether the tree is growing in fields or along boundaries, crops can benefit from natural soil nutrients. Leaves from the tree are also used as nutrient-rich mulch.
Best Way to Eat It: The fruit makes good quality jellies and jams, as well as a black molasses. A beverage similar in flavor to coffee is also made from roasted fruits. Young, leafy shoots from the tree are picked, boiled, seasoned, and eaten like spinach.
Black Plum in Action: Black plum trees' fruit and leaves support wildlife and its nitrogen fixing abilities encourage soil health. Its deep roots protect soils from erosion, benefitting other plant life and helping rebuild degraded ecosystems.
2. Ebony: Ebony wood is world renowned for its dense fine-grain quality and rich dark color. It is prized for use in musical instruments, such as pianos and violins, and is considered superior for woodcarving. The tropical species--including Africa's most common, the jackalberry (Diospyros mespiliformis)--produce the finest ebony wood and a fruit akin to the persimmon.
Best Way to Eat It: The fruits are commonly eaten fresh, dried, or pulped for sauces. They can be used in porridges and toffee, brewed into beer, fermented into wine, and distilled into an ebony brandy. In Namibia they are made into a hot liqueur called ombike.