Tigernut is an amuse-bouche that can be found in the stalls of some rare fruit vendors in the West African sub-region. It is becoming more and more popular and is beginning to attract the attention of farmers, researchers, processors and authorities because many of its virtues make it a nutritional treasure.
Produced in many countries in Europe, the Middle East and West Africa (Burkina, Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali), the tigernut has long been neglected and even considered a wild herb, sometimes cultivated just for local consumption.
These tubers look like small fruits, more or less round, slightly hard, brown or yellow in color. They come from a perennial plant that is also called “sweet pea”, “chufa” or even in African languages ”tchongon” (Ivory Coast), “Efio” (Mina/Togo), “ndir” (Wolof/Senegal), “atadwe” (Ghana).
They are eaten raw, cooked or even grilled as a delicacy. Some soak them in water before consuming them. They have a slightly sweet milky flavor with a nutty aftertaste.
These nuts contain calcium and are very rich in energy nutrients as well as protein, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamin C.
Magnesium allows calcium to bind to bones and is necessary for kidney function. Potassium is useful for good blood pressure while playing a favorable role in cardiac activity.
Dr. Ousmane Ouedraogo, nutritionist and president of the Burkina Faso Nutrition Society adds that “the nutrient content of 100 g of tiger nut determined on the basis of laboratory analysis is 452 kilocalories, 4 g of protein, 25 g of lipids, 57 g of carbohydrates, 48 mg of calcium, 6 mg of vitamin C, 3 mg of iron and traces of group B vitamins. In addition, the tigernut contains fibers that help good digestion”.
Gluten-free, it is ideal for people allergic to gluten and those who follow a sugar-free diet.
Dr. Ousmane Ouedraogo explains that the tiger nut is transformed into juice or milk, commonly called “horchata”, into oil for consumption and cosmetics, as well as into flour with which cakes, biscuits and cookies are made.
Some believe that tiger nut milk prevents colon cancer, due to its high content of fiber, nutrient E, magnesium, and saturated properties that also help skin glow.
Tigernut oil is very popular because its nutritional and therapeutic qualities are said to be comparable to olive oil in particular. Golden brown in color, it has unique nutritional properties for use in foods (fried foods, condiments) and cosmetics.
Tigernut tubers are also used to make tigernut flour, which is used in baking.
Producers, processors, traders, donors and researchers try to better promote their cultivation and make it competitive in the international market.
We see, for example, that in Niger the tiger nut has become a substitute product in the face of the decline of a commercial crop such as the peanut.
The country produced 52,044 tons of tiger nuts during the 2021 campaign according to the Niger Ministry of Agriculture, which reports an average increase of 14% over the last 5 years.
Farmers have always grown it in their fields, but this crop has gained momentum in the area after the decline of groundnuts for two main reasons: the groundnut is very popular in neighboring Nigeria and the land used for groundnut cultivation is well suited.
Bori Haoua, a specialist agronomist who published a study on the advantages and limitations of tiger nut cultivation in Niger, believes that the nutritional composition of these tubers can favor their incorporation into the diet of the Nigerien population.
At a time when this product is gaining in popularity, he insists that tiger nuts must be backed by scientific research.
Internationally, tiger nuts are increasingly considered by some to be a “superfood.”
Ousmane Ouedraogo tells us what he thinks: “Regarding its nutritional composition, tiger nuts can be considered a food that naturally provides several nutrients in reasonable amounts, so it can be considered a superfood.
Despite this, a single food does not allow us to cover all our nutritional needs. This is why we need to eat several food groups a day. For example, women need 4 food groups per day and children need at least 4 groups per day.
Until now, tiger nuts are not recorded separately in the official statistical data of most West African countries. An effort is made to provide producers with varieties adapted to different types of soil to boost production, but above all it is seen as a crop with strong export potential and industrial transformation is almost non-existent.
On the other hand, in a country like Spain (Valencian Community), the production of tiger nuts is carried out on a large scale and is followed by transformation for the food industry, mainly due to the growing consumer demand for “horchata de chufa”, a drink Española produced from these tubers.
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