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.
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