Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island.
A typical common name is baobab. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The generic name honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.
Adansonias reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Glencoe Baobab - an African Baobab specimen in Limpopo Province, South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, up to recent times had a circumference of 47 metres (154 ft). Its diameter is estimated at about 15.9 metres (52 ft). Recently the tree split up into two parts and it is possible that the stoutest tree now is Sunland Baobab, also in South Africa. Diameter of this tree is 10.64 m, approximate circumference - 33.4 metres.
Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, though radiocarbon dating may be able to provide age data.
The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, A. madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself.
A. digitata has been photographed growing in salt plains and by the sea, so may be a halophyte (salt tolerant).
* Adansonia digitata L. – African Baobab (western, northeastern, central & southern Africa, and in Oman and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Asia)
Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres / 32,000 US gallons) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region. All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season.
Since 2008, there has been increasing interest for developing baobab as a nutrient-rich raw material for consumer products.
The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.
The fruit is nutritious, possibly having more vitamin C than oranges, and exceeding the calcium content of cow's milk. The dry fruit pulp separated from seeds and fibers is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk, and is also known as "sour gourd" or "monkey's bread". In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make a nutrient-rich juice. In Zimbabwe, the fruit is known as mawuyu in the Shona language and has long been a traditional fruit. In the coastal areas of Kenya, baobab seeds are called mabuyu and are cooked with sugar, colored, and sold as a snack. Mabuyu is also the term used in Tanzania for seeds of the calabash gourd, which are prepared in a similar fashion.
The fruit can be used to produce cream of tartar. In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called "ubuyu".
The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel.
The dry pulp is either eaten fresh or used to add to gruels on cooling after cooking – a good way of preserving the vitamin contents. It can also be ground to make a refreshing drink with a pleasing wine-gum flavour. In Tanzania, it is added to aid fermentation of sugar cane for beer making.
Pulp can be stored for fairly long periods for use in soft drink production, but it needs airtight containers. Storage is improved by the use of sodium metabisulphite (Ibiyemi et al., 1988). It can also be frozen if ground to a powder.
Indigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for Aboriginal convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.
The whole fruit of the baobab is not available in the EU, as current EU legislation from 1997 dictates that foods not commonly consumed in the EU have to be formally approved before going on sale. On 15 July 2008, the EU authorized the use of Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp as a food ingredient in smoothies and cereal bars. More recently, Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp achieved GRAS status for these same food uses.
Traditional uses of the whole fruit are unlikely outside of Africa, as the fruit will be processed for export as a white powder with a cheese-like texture to be used as an ingredient in products.
Culture and myths
* Tabaldi is the name of the Baobab tree in Sudan and its fruit is Gongalis. Baobab's trunk is used as a tank to store water. People in west Sudan use the hollow in the trunk to save water in the rain season. Gongalis is used to make juice or to cure stomach and other diseases.
1. ^ "Genus: Adansonia L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. 2008-11-12. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?167. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License