Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, some in India 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, tabaldi, 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 m (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 m (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 m (154 ft). Its diameter is estimated at about 15.9 m (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. The diameter of this tree is 10.64 m (34.9 ft), with an approximate circumference of 33.4 m (110 ft).
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.
- Adansonia digitata L. – African Baobab (western, northeastern, central & southern Africa, and in Oman and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Asia)
- Adansonia grandidieri Baill. – Grandidier's Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia gregorii F.Muell. (syn. A. gibbosa) – Boab or Australian Baobab (northwest Australia)
- Adansonia madagascariensis Baill. – Madagascar Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia perrieri Capuron – Perrier's Baobab (North Madagascar)
- Adansonia rubrostipa Jum. & H.Perrier (syn. A. fony) – Fony Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia suarezensis H.Perrier – Suarez Baobab (Diego Suarez, Madagascar)
- Adansonia za Baill. – Za Baobab (Madagascar)
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 seeds or dried fruit powder for consumer products. As of 2010, the potential international market was estimated at $1 billion per year.
The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel. 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 large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree, Derby still stands and is now a tourist attraction. There is a similar tree near the Western Australian town of Wyndham.
The fruit has a velvety shell and is about the size of a coconut, weighing about 1.44 kilograms (3.2 lb). It has an acidic, tart flavor, described as 'somewhere between grapefruit, pear, and vanilla'.
In Zimbabwe, the fruit has been used in traditional food preparations. According to one source, locals "ate the fruit fresh or crushed the crumbly pulp to stir into porridge and drinks". Malawi women have already set up commercial ventures earning their children's school fees for their harvesting work. In Sudan, it may be moistened in water to make a juice.
Prior to commercial approval, baobab fruit powder was not available in the European Union (EU), as legislation from 1997 dictated that foods not commonly consumed in the EU would have to be formally approved before commercialization. In 2008, the EU authorized the use of baobab dried fruit pulp as a safe ingredient in food products, and in 2009, it was granted GRAS status in the United States.
The powdery white interior may be used as a "thickener in jams and gravies, a sweetener for fruit drinks, or a tangy flavor addition to hot sauces." The dry fruit pulp, separated from seeds and fibers, is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk, and is also known as "monkey's bread". The dry fruit pulp may be covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy.
The dry pulp is either eaten fresh or added to gruels. In Tanzania, it is added to aid fermentation of sugar cane for beer making. Pulp can be stored for beverage production, but it needs airtight containers. Storage is improved by the use of sodium metabisulphite. It can also be frozen if ground to a powder. In Asia, it is an ingredient in a carbonated soda called Baobab Pepsi described as having a citrus taste.
In the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania, baobab seeds are cooked with sugar, colored, and sold as a snack. 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.
Culture and myths
- Tabaldi is the name of the baobab tree in Sudan, and its fruit is gongalis[clarification needed]. 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 rainy season. Gongalis is used to make juice or to cure stomach and other diseases.
- The owners of Sunland Farm in Limpopo, South Africa have built a pub called "The Big Baobab Pub" inside the hollow trunk of the 22 metres (72 ft) high Sunland baobab. The tree is 47 m (154 ft) in circumference, and is reported to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.
Baobab flowers in Mulund, Mumbai, India
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- "Big Baobab Facts". Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. http://www.bigbaobab.co.za/baobab.html. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- http://www.arkive.org/baobab/adansonia-digitata/image-G50349.html – Baobab growing in a salt plain (access date 2010-07-19)
- http://email@example.com/msg08234.html – Baobabs growing close to the sea (access date 2010-07-19)
- "GRIN Species Records of Adansonia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/splist.pl?167. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
- "The Baobab tree in Senegal". Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. http://www.senegal-online.com/anglais/parcs-faune-flore/baobab.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
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- Herbal Sciences International Ltd (2006). "Baobab dried fruit pulp – An application for novel foods approval in the EU as a food ingredient". UK Food Standards Agency. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/baobabapplicationfinal.pdf. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
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- "New exotic fruit to hit UK shops". BBC. 2008-07-15. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7506997.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
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- "Baobab dried fruit pulp". UK Food Standards Agency. 2008. http://acnfp.food.gov.uk/assess/fullapplics/baobab. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- "Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000273". Fda.gov. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/GenerallyRecognizedasSafeGRAS/GRASListings/ucm174945.htm.
- http://www.baobab.kansaspalms.com M. Sidibe and J. T. Williams 2002. Baobab International Centre for Underutilised Crops, University of Southampton
- Fancy a pint in the world's only bar that's INSIDE a tree?, Daily Mail, December 2007 Retrieved 20 December 2007
- Of all the gin joints in all the world, Tristan McConnell in the Big Baobab Pub, Modjadjiskloof, South Africa, The Times, January 2007, Retrieved 20 December 2007
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Baobab.|
- Baum, D. A.; Small, R. L.; Wendel, J. F. (1998). "Biogeography and floral evolution of baobabs (Adansonia, Bombacaceae) as inferred from multiple data sets". Systematic Biology 47 (2): 181–207. doi:10.1080/106351598260879. PMID 12064226.
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