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Baobab use goes beyond fruits and vegetables

The Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has released a new publication to increase knowledge on the baobab tree that inhabits regions along the Kenyan coast

The publication Descriptors for Baobab will accelerate and improve research on this iconic tree that has many uses for farmers across East Africa and beyond.

Katja Kehlenbeck, research scientist at ICRAF, said, “Baobab is the first neglected, undomesticated African food tree species to enter the Descriptors Series.”

Baobab (Adansoniadigitata) is an important multipurpose food tree of the semi-arid and sub-humid zones of sub-Saharan Africa, according to ICRAF.

The tree is a nutritious source of food in many communities and has the potential to increase incomes particularly for women, stated Kehlenbeck.

Almost all parts of the baobab are useful for human beings, with fruits and leaves being the most important for food and nutrition security of local communities.

The naturally dry, whitish fruit pulp has five times the vitamin C concentration of an orange, and is high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron.

The fruit can be eaten fresh or processed into porridge, juice, jam, ice cream and sweets, added Kehlenbeck.

The seeds are rich in protein and fat and can be roasted and eaten as a tasty snack or pressed into oil for consumption and industrial use, particularly for cosmetic products.

The leaves have high protein, beta-carotene and iron content and are used fresh as leafy vegetables or dried and powdered as a soup ingredient.

The production of baobab pulp and leaves is almost entirely based on trees growing naturally in forests and woodlands or in farmers’ fields.

Mwangi Mumero