Adansonia digitata L.

Baobab fruit

Common names
English (baobab, monkey bread); Swahili (mbuyu); Chichewa (mlambe); Arabic (Hamao); Mandinke (sito); Haussa (kukua, kouka); Afrikaans (kremetart, kremetartboom)
Foods
Baobab fruit and leaves
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Tree info

Dimensions in meters 10-25 m
Maturity of tree before yields 25–60 years
Productivity lifetime 1000+ years
Seasonality Fruits are harvested during the dry season, which varies depending on latitude.
Production zones and cultivation methods Grows mainly in bush and woodland areas, both coastal and inland. The fruit takes about half a year to ripen. During this time, the fruit pulp dries naturally and, once ripe, they fall to the ground where they are collected and processed.

Nutrition

Per 100 g edible portion (EP)

Baobab is a superfruit that contains as much as 6x more vitamin C than oranges and twice as much calcium as milk. It also contains high amounts of key minerals including potassium, calcium and iron.
Energy (kcal) 327 kcal
% Daily Value (DV) *
Macronutrients Carbohydrates: 75 g 27 %
Proteins: 2.4 g 5 %
Fats: 0.5 g 1 %
Key Minerals Potassium: 1,730 mg 37 %
Calcium: 275 mg 21 %
Magnesium: 232 mg 55 %
Iron: 6.1 mg 35 %
Key Vitamins Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C): 269 mg 29%
Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 1.2 mg 26 %
Folate (Vitamin B9): 1.5 mg 13 %
*All Daily Recommended Values are calculated using the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s recommendation guide.

Geography

Found in semi-arid and sub-humid zones of sub-Saharan Africa, including countries in western Africa (Senegal, Mali, Niger, Benin), southern Africa (Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar) and eastern Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania).

Uses

Baobab fruit pulp can have up to 6x the vitamin C of oranges and is also rich in iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The fruit contains a white, mealy and acidic-tasting pulp that can be eaten fresh or processed into porridge, juice, jam and ice cream. The pulp-coated seeds can be colored, sugar-coated, and sold as sweets or pressed into oil for consumption and industrial use — particularly in cosmetic products.

Baobab fruit pulp is sold locally and internationally. Its products are an important source of nutrition for local communities, but there is also increasing interest and demand for baobab pulp and powder in Europe and the USA.

The leaves have high beta-carotene and iron content and are eaten fresh as leafy vegetables or dried and powdered as a soup ingredient. They are also used to treat kidney and bladder diseases, asthma, general fatigue, diarrhea, insect bites and guinea worm.

The tree itself is an iconic African tree, they beautify the landscape, represent cultural heritage and maintain African traditions, beliefs and knowledge. It is known as Africa’s upside-down tree due to its gnarled boughs which are leafless for many months of the year and appears like a root system growing into the sky. One of the longest-living trees in the world, the baobab may live for more than 1000 years.

In some places, the baobab has adapted to very dry and arid conditions, earning it recognition as a symbol of life in many cultures. The tree behaves like a giant succulent, storing up to 10,000 liters of water in its enormous trunk.

It has been identified in many African countries as a priority species for further domestication and enhanced utilization.

Scientific references

  • Anjarwalla P, Ofori D, Owino A, Matuku D, Mwangi E, Adika W, Njogu K, Kehlenbeck K. (2016). Testing different grafting methods for vegetative propagation of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) in Kenya to assist its domestication and promote cultivation. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 26:85–95.

  • Chadare FJ, Linnemann AR, Hounhouigan JD, Nout MJ, Van Boekel MA. (2009). Baobab food products: a review on their composition and nutritional value. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 49(3):254–274.

  • Gebauer, J., Adam, Y.O., Sanchez, A.C. et al. Africa’s wooden elephant: the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) in Sudan and Kenya: a review. Genet Resour Crop Evol 63, 377–399 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-015-0360-1

  • McMullin, S., and Kehlenbeckm K. (2015). The untapped potential of Baobab: Indigenous fruit trees could improve nutrition and livelihoods, especially in rural areas. Miti Magazine https://issuu.com/mitimagazine/docs/miti_26__low_res

  • Stadlmayr, B. C., Charrondiere, R., Eisenwagen, S., Jamnadass, R., & Kehlenbeck, K. (2013).Nutrient composition of selected indigenous fruits from sub Saharan Africa. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 93(11), 2627–2636.

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