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The Use of Baobab Leaves (Adansonia digitata L.) for Food in Africa: A Review

  • John RashfordEmail author
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Abstract

The Use of Baobab Leaves (Adansonia digitata) for Food in Africa: A Review. The massive long-lived African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) is a celebrated member of a small pantropical group of trees in the Malvaceae family. Its much-loved fruit is generally considered the tree’s most important food offering, and the baobab is more widely known as a fruit and fiber tree than a vegetable tree. Recent studies indicate that baobab leaves are eaten throughout its range, most notably in West Africa, and there is now ample documentation of the tree being valued in some places chiefly for its edible leaves. This paper presents a review of the use of baobab leaves for food in Africa. It identifies the species as one of Africa’s important leafy vegetables and highlights issues related to baobab management strategies for leaf production, the distinguishing characteristics of palatable leaves, and the seasonal dimension of leaf consumption. The culinary uses of baobab leaves and their nutritiousness are discussed, as well as current efforts to cultivate young baobabs for their leaves. The use of baobab leaves for food outside of Africa is also noted, and several suggestions are offered for future studies of baobab leaf consumption in Africa.

Key Words

Baobab uses food morphotypes subspecific variation ethnobotany pollarded baobabs 

L’utilisation des feuilles de baobab en tant que nourriture en Afrique: Un compte- rendu. Le Baobab africain énorme et d’une grande longévité (Adansonia digitata L.) est un membre glorieux d’un petit groupe d’arbres tropicaux des deux émisphères dans la famille des Malvaceae. Son fruit bien aimé est considéré comme étant l’offrande la plus importante et le baobab est plus connu comme un arbre à fruit et à fibres qu’un arbre potager. Des études récentes indiquent que les feuilles du baobab sont mangées d’un bout à l’autre de son étendue, plus particulièrement en Afrique de l’Ouest, et l’on trouve maintenant une multitude de documents sur cet arbre étant estimé dans certains endroits principalement pour ses feuilles comestibles. Cet article présente un compte-rendu de l’utilisation des feuilles de baobab comme nourriture en Afrique. Il identifie les espèces comme un des légumes à feuilles importants en Afrique et souligne les problèmes liés aux stratégies de gestion du baobab, les caractéristiques des feuilles savoureuses et l’étendue saisonnière de la consommation de feuilles. Les utilisations culinaires des feuilles de baobab et leur valeur nutritionnelle sont étudiées ainsi que les efforts en cours de cultiver de jeunes baobab pour leurs feuilles. L’utilisation des feuilles de baobab en tant que nourriture en dehors de l’Afrique est également mentionnée et plusieurs suggestions sont proposées quant à des études futures sur la consommation de la feuille de baobab en Afrique.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank the anonymous reviewers of this article for their helpful comments, and special thanks go to Brandon Lewter of the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library for his assistance in locating the sources.

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© The New York Botanical Garden 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

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