Eden Foundation

Eden Foundation

Founded 1985 in Sweden
Active in Tanout, Niger, since 1987

Nutritional study on Ziziphus spina-christi

One of Edenís goals is for Dry Farming Candidates to be analysed for their nutritional value. Many Dry Farming Candidates are being used for human food, not just in famine years but also in years of good harvest. A large number have a direct economic value for the farmer. Food can be gathered from these plants throughout the year including the critical months before harvest of annuals when food supply runs low. But little is known about the nutritional status of many of these species, so Eden considers it important that analyses are done on them in order to find out how to best include them in a balanced diet.

Peter Sahlin, a chemical engineer in food processing teaching at the University of Lund, Sweden has been responsible for Edenís nutritional work since the beginning. In 1987 he came for a study on the food habits of the rural population of an area in Niger. The study was done on 49 households in 5 villages. He found that the people regularly used food from 18 local Dry Farming Candidate species including herbs, bushes and trees that provided fruit, seed, leaf and gum. This confirmed the need to study the nutritional values of food from little researched Dry Farming Candidates more thoroughly.

This year money was made available by StrÝmme Foundation of Norway for a freeze-drier which is used to prepare plant parts for transport to a laboratory for the analysis itself. StrÝmme also financed a drying oven which is used to calculate the dry weight of samples. Plant parts from Dry Farming Candidates were screened through Edenís Nutritional Analysis Screening Method. Highest ratings are given to plant parts that are harvested without damage to the plant, culturally acceptable, easily obtained, transportable to lab, environmentally constructive, growing well at the field station, little researched and have been through the Dry Farming Candidate Preparation Test.

A Swedish student was given a grant to come to Eden for an 8 week field study on the nutrition of a Dry Farming Candidate for his MSc thesis. Ziziphus spina-christi was selected as it had got a high rating in the Nutritional Analysis Screening Method. The fruits, seeds and leaves were picked from trees around Zinder. The drying oven was used to determine the dry matter and the freeze-drier to preserve the samples before transportation to Sweden. There he analysed them at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm and the Chemical Center, University of Lund where Peter Sahlin was his supervisor.

The fruits were found to have a very high energy value. Only dates, figs, raisins and a few other dried fruits have a higher value. The seeds were rich in protein and the leaves in calcium, iron and magnesium. The study shows clearly that food from this plant is an important source of energy, protein and minerals.

Peter Sahlinís survey in Niger showed that children between the age of 6-18 months didnít gain weight and half of the children between one to five years were undernourished. One of the reasons for the undernourishment was given as a lack of variety of food, showing the need for novelty foods such as Ziziphus spina-christi.

There is the challenge of many edible perennial species growing in arid zones of the world that are used for human food by the local population, but are virtually unknown to the scientific community. As finance becomes available, more nutritional tests can be done and more knowledge will be gained about the food benefits from these valuable plants.

 
Ziziphus spina-christi
FRUIT
SEED
LEAF
Carbohydrates %
63.8
21.8
25.8
Protein %
3.1
29.6
6.8
Fat %
2.2
3.9
3.3
Calcium mg/100g
177
154
1270
Iron mg/100g
0.6
4.4
7.2
Phosphorus mg/100g
135
1090
85.4
Sulphur mg/100g
94.5
1180
195
Potassium mg/100g
1910
1130
673
Magnesium mg/100g
56.3
301
169
Zinc mg/100g
0.8
9.2
1.5
Copper mg/100g
0.6
1.6
0.3
Manganese mg/100g
0.4
3.5
3.5
Sodium mg/100g
9
14.1
22
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