Tiger nuts are abundant in Nigeria and I used to eat lots of them in my younger years. when I was in the western part of the country,I imagined every time I eat them where they are from and how they are planted.To eat it as a snack, just chew and suck on the chaff then spit out the chaff. Some people swallow the chaff but it is quite difficult for me to swallow. I sometimes wonder why I have to punish myself to chew especially the dried ones after all there is no day I chew that I don’t cough. I couldn’t just fathom why people enjoy eating it.prior to my knowledge about it I felt not only did it make me cough while chewing, it seems it has no nutritional value or so I thought. In the west we call it ofio and as far as we are concern we will rather chew that than chew gum.The annoying thing about it is that if it is not properly manage it can make an environment dirty.
I came to the northern part of the country and every tom, dick and Harry is drinking kunun aya and I asked , what is this?
After so many questions I realised that the ofio I felt was a necessary evil in the west does not only have nutrional value it is also a big source of livelihood, then I remember a part of a book that says people perish for lack of knowledge. Aya as it is called in the north has a lot of benefits that we do not even realize and I’m increasingly realizing that a lot more can be done with it apart from chewing and spitting it out or swallowing it for the fiber property. I made some tiger nut milk by blending the tiger nuts and squeezing the juices out of it the same way you would do with coconut.
fig 1 flow chart showing extraction of milk from tigernut
Tigernut is an underutilized crop and it was reported to be high in dietary fibre content, which could be effective in the treatment and prevention of many diseases including colon cancer, coronary heart diseases, obesity, diabetics and gastro intestinal disorders. Tigernut flour has been demonstrated to be a rich source of quality oil and contains moderate amount of protein. It is also an excellent source of some useful minerals such as iron and calcium which are essential for body growth and development . The process of flour production is as shown in Fig. 2. Its tubers are also said to be aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, stimulant and tonic. Tigernut has also been reported to be used in the treatment of flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea, dysentery and excessive thirst . In addition, tigernut has been demonstrated to contain higher essential amino acids than those proposed in the protein standard by the FAO/WHO (1985) for satisfying adult needs . Tigernut milk has been found to be good for the Arteriosclerosis which contains Arginina which is a precursor of nitric oxide which helps to the vein expanded effect. Tigernut milk without sugar can be taken for diabetics for its content in Carbohydrates which is a base of sucrose and starch (without glucose) and due to its content of Arginina which liberates the hormone that produces the insulin. Tigernut milk is also an ideal drink for people who are not able to take gluten and also for those who are not able to take cow’s milk and derivatives. It could also be recommended for those who have heavy digestions, flatulence and diarrhea because it provides us a lot of digestive enzymes like catalase, lipase and amylase (TIGERNUTS TRADERS).
fig 2 Flow chart showing processing of tigernut into flour
Considering the nutritive and health benefits of the underutilized tigernuts, there is the need for increased utilization and awareness of its health benefits. Moreover it is suggested that products from Tigernuts should be encouraged so as to solve the problem of protein-calorie malnutrition in Africa, more so that high price of imported milk and milk products (for instance) coupled with poor milk production in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general seem to have made consumers more ready to accept milk produced from plant sources.