Argentina and Afghanistan: a root discovery.

Meet Argentina’s famous tree:  the ombú (Phytolacca dioica), that conjured in me images of a long-ago childhood, and poems that I did not appreciate -then- the beauty of their cadences.
For example, a famous Argentine writer and statesman, wrote an ode to the tree:

Every region of the planet
Has a feature of importance:
Has Brazil its sun of ardor,
Mines of silver has Peru,
Montevideo its hillock,
Buenos Aires, land of beauty,
Has its grandiose spreading pampa,
And the pampa the ombu.

Or, in its original Spanish: 

Cada comarca en la tierra
Tiene un rasgo prominente:
El Brasil, su sol ardiente;
Minas de plata el Pera,
Montevideo, su cerro;
Buenos Aires, patria hermosa,
Tiene su pampa grandiosa;
La pampa tiene el ombú…

The ombú’s magnificence is in its intricate roots and the thick foliage that protects cattle and man alike from the harsh elements.  Yet the tree’s sap is poisonous.

Reconnecting with a friend of mine, whom I had not seen in decades, I discovered -to my amazement – that Afghanistan produces the one root that has medicinal powers and is widely used for flavoring: licorice (Glycyrriza glabra).  In fact, licorice from Afghanistan is one of Afghanistan’s biggest exports to Europe and the United States.

Next time I visit Afghanistan I shall explore more about their abundant and unique root.  In the meantime, I am enjoying reconnecting with the beautiful roots that, in my travels, I have only seen in Argentina:  the ombu’s.



About Barbara Dillon Hillas

Mother of global nomads; wife of diplomat; peripatetic lawyer; annotator of foreign service life, rule of law, culture, travel, & whatever strikes my fancy.
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