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Baobab Trees in Gambia
 Crops     Drinks      Fruits      Nature
Baobab trees are common symbols of Gambia. The tree is also known as the Monkey bread tree, Ethiopian sour gourd, Cream of tartar tree, Senegal calabash (fruit), upside-down tree.  Very uniquely shaped, with root-like branches  a fat trunk specializing in water storage and surviving bush fires, these trees can remain alive for well over a thousand years.

The Baobab fruit, dark green or brown on the outside when ripe, is edible and commonly used in juices, ices, and porridge. Break it open by pounding it against a hard object. The insides will expose white fruit with black seeds that are slightly larger than peas.

It is a soft fruit, ranging from a bit moist to dry and chalky, melting in your mouth. For making tasty juice and ices, soak the fruit in water for a few hours to separate it from the seeds and the root-like veins. Mix the fruit in fresh water with sugar and milk; freezing is optional.

The history of known references to African baobab is well documented. The Gambian baobab is a very long-lived tree with multipurpose uses. It is thought that some trees are over 1000 years old. Since it is not grown agriculturally nor is it properly domesticated, there are no known varieties; earlier attempts to describe some on the basis of fruit differences are not now accepted.

Uses of the Baobab Tree:
Improved nutrition through promotion of baobab requires attention being paid to local methods of processing e.g. of leaf powders mixed with local alkaline rock salts, or careful storage of dry the pulp. There are many NGOs involved with women and nutrition that can take on this role.

Much of the enhanced use of baobab is low level knowledge dissemination. For instance, to retain vitamin C in soft drinks it is important not to boil the pulp but to add the powder to previously boiled water. To retain high levels of pro-vitamin A in dried leaves it is important to dry the leaves in the shade and not in full sun. Also for storage it is recommended to store dried whole leaves rather than leaf powder.

Wild trees are chosen with a desired quality and seedlings, occasionally cuttings, are transplanted to fields near homes where they can receive 'protection'. Leaf production is a major challenge due to its seasonality. Production from protected trees does not meet local needs, hence collecting from the wild. Irrigation can extend the leaf production and the local black bark type responds well to this.

Selection for seed production and use of seeds due to their advantages in nutrition has not been a traditional practice. Also selection of types with fruit pulp with higher vitamin C content is now underway in Mali, but it remains to be seen how this can be transferred through extension. Traditionally leaf production can be increased through pollarding. It could be that genotypes may be selected to increase leaf production in trees in more remote areas. Also height of tree presents constraints in gathering fruits and accidents are not at all uncommon. Grafting presents an opportunity to reduce this risk.

Scientific name: Adansonia digitata



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