Arabic Gum is a product as old as the world. In ancient Egypt, it was used for the manufacture of ink, hieroglyphics and pottery. Today, its physical and chemical properties are used in the food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries making it a major commercial product at an international level.
Gum arabic is a natural exudate of solidified sap, produced on the trunks and branches of trees in the Acacia family. The flow of this gum can be natural or triggered by incisions during the hottest, driest period of the year. It’s is why the Acacia is called “the tree with golden tears.” Arabic gum is an edible substance widespread in the food industry. The harvest takes place December to June. Among the 900 listed species of acacias, the Acacia Senegal native to Sudan is the best known. It produces the best quality gum called gum Senegal.
We can distinguish:
-The hard gum arabic, obtained after the exsudation of Acacia senegals.
-The friable gum arabic or talha produced by Acacia seyals.
According to the Food Codex, only gums produced by Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal have the official name “gum arabic.”
THE “GUM BELT”
Gum arabic is mainly harvested in Saharan Africa. From Senegal to Sudan including Mali, Niger, Chad and Eritrea, the “GUM BELT” represents a great development opportunity for the region. The most appreciated quality of gum is Ferlo (Senegal) and Kordofan (Sudan).
Because the Acacia —a native species— can endure difficult climatic conditions, the Acacia is at the heart of the “a great green wall” international project. This large belt of trees extends over 7,000 km to stem the expansion of the Sahara and rehabilitate 50 million hectares of land.
Arabic gum comes in the form of spheroidal nodules of various size that are yellowish or amber white, and often broken into angular, glassy, and transparent fragments.
Acacia Senegal gum is hard, colourless, odourless, tasteless and transparent. In the water, it forms an amber, adhesive, low acid solution, with a levorotatory form.
Acacia seyal gum (Tahla) is friable, odourless and flavourless. In the water, it forms a viscous, dark and adhesive solution, with a dextrorotatory form. Acacia gum consists mainly of acidic polysaccharide, which exists in its native state salt (calcium, magnesium, potassium). It is almost entirely soluble in water and insoluble in alcohol and most organic solvents. Its remarkable solubility in water enables high concentrations.