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 thousands of
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 (small juice bags can be bought
cheaply at any market).
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
Uses of the Baobab Tree:
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.