Vigna subterranea (also known by its common names: Bambara groundnut, Bambara nut, Bambara bean, Congo goober, earth pea, ground-bean, or hog-peanut) is a member of the family Fabaceae. The plant originated in West Africa (the Bambara people are found in southern Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal). Vigna subterranea ripens its pods underground, much like the peanut (also called a groundnut). They can be eaten fresh or boiled after drying, they can be ground either fresh or dry to make puddings popularly known as Okpa in Nigeria.
Origin and cultivation
The origin of the Bambara groundnut is West Africa and the region of cultivation is Sub-Saharan Africa's warm tropics. Bambara nut grows well anywhere groundnut (peanut) grows, and so is vastly present from Kwara state and throughout the northern parts of Nigeria.
Bambara groundnut represents the third most important grain legume in semi-arid Africa. “It is resistant to high temperature and is suitable for marginal soils where other leguminous crops cannot be grown”, thereby considered as a low-impact crop.
Bambara groundnut has nutritive value ranging between 57.9% to 61.7% carbohydrate and 24.0% to 25.5% protein content. It is considered to be a neglected and underutilized food source in Benin. It is reported an antimicrobial activity against Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Candida albicans (yeast) and Aspergillus niger (mold). The brown hull showed the highest concentrations of rutin and myricetin among flavonoids, while the red hull resulted in having with the highest concetrations of chlorogenic and ellagic acid among tannin compounds.
The seeds are used for food and beverage because of their high protein content and for digestive system applications. The entire plant is known for soil improvement because of nitrogen fixation. In West Africa, the nuts are eaten as a snack, roasted and salted, processed into cake, or as a meal, boiled similar to other beans.
In South Eastern Nigeria, particularly in Enugu, the dried bambara beans are ground into a fine powder, then mixed with palm oil, water and pumpkin leaves and then poured into banana leaf wraps or 1 litre cellophane bags before being boiled into a kind of cakey pudding to make "okpa", a common breakfast food in Enugu, Nsukka and Ngwo Nigeria. In Niger State and upper Kwara state the Nupes and Yorubas have a delicacy called Sagidi, a meal sold in every Friday and Saturday market. Just like Groundnut Cake (Kulikuli cake), the Bambara nut is processed to Kangu cake starting from Kwara through northern Nigeria, Chad and Niger. During the rainy season in many parts of central Nigeria like Jos, the fresh bambara beans are cooked with their shells still on them. The beans are then eaten as a snack just like boiled groundnuts.
Optimal soils for Bambara groundnut production are sandy soils to prevent waterlogging. Optimal soil depth is between 50 and 100 cm, with a light soil texture. soil fertility should be low and soil pH is best suited between 5 and 6.5 and should not be lower than 4.3 or higher than 7.
The production is best suited between a latitude of 20° - 30°, i.e. the tropical wet and dry (Aw) and the subtropical dry summer (Cs) climate zones. Optimal temperature is between 19 °C and 30 °C. Temperatures below 16 °C and above 38 °C are not suited for the production of bambara groundnut. The bambara groundnut is very drought resistant. The minimal annual rainfall requirement is about 300 mm and optimal annual rainfall is between 750 mm and 1400 mm and should not exceed 3000 mm.
Bambara groundnut is mainly cultivated as intercrop, however the planting density varies between 6 and 29 plants per square meter. For woodland savannas of Côte d'Ivoire the highest yield is attainable with a plant density of 25 plants per square meter.
|Production Year 2013 (Source FAOSTAT)||Area Harvested (Ha)||Yield (kg/ha)||Production (tonnes)|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||4,828||750||14,000|
The growth cycle is between (min-max) 90–170 days and under optimal conditions the cycle is about 120–150 days to pod maturity. Flowers appear 40–60 days after planting. 30 days after pollination the pod reaches maturity and during another 55 days the seeds fully develop. Every 30 days they are produced again.
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