Adansonia digitata, the baobab, is the most widespread tree species of the genus Adansonia, the baobabs, and is native to the African continent. The long-lived pachycauls are typically found in dry, hot savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa, where they dominate the landscape, and reveal the presence of a watercourse from afar. Their growth rate is determined by ground water or rainfall, and their maximum age, which is subject to much conjecture, seems to be in the order of 1,500 years. They have traditionally been valued as sources of food, water, health remedies or places of shelter and are steeped in legend and superstition. European explorers of old were inclined to carve their names on baobabs, and many are defaced by modern graffiti.
Common names for the baobab include dead-rat tree (from the appearance of the fruit, monkey-bread tree (the soft, dry fruit is edible), upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots) and cream of tartar tree (cream of tartar).
The baobab is primarily found in Madagascar and mainland Africa, but there is one species in Australia. They live thousands of years, but only have leaves for only 3 months of the year. It produces flowers and large squash like fruit. The antelopes, giraffes and elephants eat the leaves and flowers. The Hippos and monkeys eat the fruit. Dried baobab powder is claimed to help with weight loss and controlling blood sugars.
A cowherd in Senegal harvests baobab leaves for forage in the dry season. The baobab is a traditional food plant in Africa, but is little-known elsewhere. The fruit has been suggested to have the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable land care.
The African baobab fruit is usually 15–20 cm (6–8 in) long, but can be as big as 25 centimetres (9.8 in). The dry pulp is either eaten fresh or dissolved in milk or water to make a drink. In Sudan — where the tree is called tebeldi — people make tabaldi juice by soaking and dissolving the dry pulp of the fruit in water, locally known as gunguleiz.
Leaves and Seed
Baobab leaves can be eaten as a relish. Young fresh leaves are cooked in a sauce and sometimes are dried and powdered. The powder is called lalo in Mali and sold in many village markets in Western Africa. The leaves are used in the preparation of a soup termed miyan kuka in Northern Nigeria and are rich in phytochemicals and minerals. Oil extracted by pounding the seeds can be used for cooking but this is not widespread.
Baobab leaves are sometimes used as forage for ruminants in dry season. The oilmeal, which is a byproduct of oil extraction, can also be used as animal feed. In times of drought, elephants consume the juicy wood beneath the bark of the baobab.
The children of Mfuwe show us another use for the baobab.