1.1 Background study
Tigernut (Cyperus esculentum) is a perennial grass-like plant with spheroid tubers, pale yellow cream kernel surrounded by a fibrous sheath. It is also known as yellow nut sedge, earth or ground almonds, “souchet” in French, “ermandeln” in German and “chufa” in Spanish (TTSL, 2005). Grossman and Thomas (1998) reported that chufa came to Spain from Africa. Tigernut is found wild and cultivated in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Tigernuts grow in the wild, along rivers and are cultivated on a small scale by rural farmers mostly in the northern states of Nigeria. It is locally called “aya” in Hausa; “aki awusa” in Igbo; “ofio” in Yoruba and “isipaccara” in Effik. Tigernuts are edible, sweet, nutty, flavoured tubers which contain protein, carbohydrate, sugars, and lots of oil and fiber (FAO, 1988). Grossman and Thomas (1998) showed that tigernuts have been cultivated for food and drink for men and planted for hogs for many years in Spain and that the lovely milky elixir is served in health Spas, Pubs, and Restaurants as a refreshing beverage (competing successfully with other soft drinks). Unfortunately, despite these potentials in tigernuts it has been a neglected crop in Nigeria. This probably may be due to inadequate knowledge on its production, utilization and nutritional value.
Tigernut could provide a basis for rural industries in Africa. It is an important food crop for certain tribes in Africa, often collected and eaten raw, baked as a vegetable, roasted or dried and ground to flour. The ground flour is mixed with sorghum to make porridge, ice-cream, sherbet or milky drink. It is mostly consumed raw as snack without knowledge of the food and nutritional quality (FAO, 1988). It has also been found to possess good therapeutic quality (Moore, 2004; Zimmerman, 1987; Farre, 2003; Bixquert, 2003; Valls, 2003). Moore stated that “the expansion of tigernut milky drinks will significantly help the research linking tigernut milk to healthier cholesterol levels and other non-dairy manufacturers. This could also gain a boost from an increased consumer interest in health foods”.
Variety of food products can be derived from tiger nut tubers though there is little documentation at large. Various food processing techniques can be applied to tiger nut processing to modify its appearance, develop its natural flavour, stimulate the digestive juices, add variety to the menu, make it easily digestible and bio-available, destroy harmful microorganisms, improve its nutritional quality and prevent decomposition. This project work intends to basically evaluate, promote production and utilization of tiger nuts using various processing techniques.
1.2 Statement of problems
Food insecurity continues to threaten large proportions of households in low income countries. In view of the operational definition of household food security stated by ACC / SCN (1991), a household is food secure when it has access to the food needed for a healthy life for all its members (adequate in terms of quality, quantity, safety and culturally acceptable), and when it is not at undue risk of losing such access. Adequate nutrition is essential for individual development, activity, good health, fulfillment function and success in societies and nations (ACC / SCN, 1991). Some of the factors that may affect food security as well as nutrition are as follows:
- Inadequate production and knowledge of the food use
- Poor processing, preservation and storage techniques
- Poor infrastructure, especially poor housing, sanitation and storage facilities, education, communications, and transporting systems.
- Extreme imbalances in food or population ratio
- War / political or civil unrest
- Rapid depletion of natural resources
- Cultural attitudes toward certain foods
- High external debt
- Seasonal factors or climatic variations
- Food prices
Tigernut has been for many years one of the underutilized food crops in Nigeria. It is mostly eaten raw as snack and un-identified as a very important food crop that has great potential in managing, preventing and eliminating malnutrition (macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies) or food insecurity problems. It has been demonstrated by nutritionist that the major nutritional problems could be solved through exploitation of the nutrition and economic potentials of the local food resources. Tigernut is one of the under utilized tubers with great potentials for domestic and commercial purposes. There is no documentation of a successful product made from tigernuts in the Nigerian market. A successful product offers a benefit that is perceptible and valued by the consumer (NUTRA, 2005).
There is little documentation on the nutritional quality and versatility of tigernuts in food preparation despite its availability. However, tigernut is still one of the least popular tubers in Nigeria and hence the need for this research which intends to evaluate, promote production and utilization of tiger nuts using various processing techniques.
1.3 Objectives of study
The broad objective of this study is to evaluate the food potentials of tigernut tubers (tigernuts) and its products.
Specific objectives are as follows: to
1) determine the proximate, mineral, vitamin, physico-chemical and functional properties of tigernuts.
2) develop products from tiger nuts using traditional processing techniques such as natural fermentation, malting, drying and roasting.
3) assess the organoleptic properties and general acceptability of the developed tigernut products (milk, coffee and wine beverages).
4) determine some nutritional properties and microbial load of developed tigernut products (milk, coffee and wine beverages).
1.4 Significance of study
In recent years, the need to increase the production and utilization of locally available food resources has been highlighted at different national and international fora. Tigernuts, one of the under utilized food crops locally available in Nigeria could be demonstrated to aid in solving major nutritional problems through exploitation of its nutritional and economic potentials.
The results of this study will provide a baseline data on tigernut utilization. This will go a long way to diversify its use and in turn lead to its increased production both at household and national levels ultimately to ensure food security. Furthermore, it is expected that through the knowledge of its composition, tiger nut may be exploited for use in the prevention and treatment of some non communicable diseases for example cancers, diabetes, heamorrhoids and cardiovascular diseases.