Botanical Name: Boscia senegalensis
Common names:Aizen Fruit, Aizen (Mauritania), Mukheit (Arabic), Hanza (Hausa), Bere (Bambara), Ngigili (Fulani), Mandiarha (Berber), Anza (Zarma) and Taedent (Tamasheq). The fruits are also known as Dilo (Hausa), Bokkhelli (Arabic), Gigile (Fulani) and Kanduwi (Tamasheq).
Habitat : The plant originated from West Africa. Still a traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known fruit has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
Aizen Fruit is a perennial woody plant species of the genus Boscia in the caper family, Capparaceae. This plant is classified as a dicot. Native to the Sahel region in Africa, this evergreen shrub can grow anywhere from 2 to 4 m (6 ft 7 in to 13 ft 1 in) in height under favourable conditions. The leaves of the plant are small and leathery, reaching 12 cm × 4 cm (4.7 in × 1.6 in). B. senegalensis produces fruits, clustered in small bunches, in the form of yellow spherical berries, up to 1.5 cm (0.59 in) in diameter. These fruits contain 1–4 seeds, which are a greenish hue when mature.
Boscia senegalensis is recognized as a potential solution to hunger and a buffer against famine in the Sahel region due to the variety of useful products it yields. It produces products for consumption, household needs, and medicinal and agricultural uses.
Fruits are ready for human consumption at the beginning of the rainy season, when most crops are just being planted, and there is little other food available. Fruits can be consumed raw and cooked. Raw fruits initially contain a sweet pulp that then dries out to a sugary solid, difficult to separate from seed. Fruits are often cooked prior to consumption. Juice can also be extracted and boiled down into a butter-like consistency that can be mixed with millet and milk to make cakes. In Sudan, the fruit is fermented into a beer.
The seeds of B. senegalensis are also important sources of nutrition, especially during times of famine. To gain access to the seeds, fruits are dried in the sun, pounded to remove the outer seed coat and soaked in water for several days, changing the water every day. The seed soaking process, also known as debittering, is essential to remove bitter and potentially toxic components. Seeds are usually cooked prior to consumption. Cooked seeds are texturally similar to a chickpea and can be used as a cereal substitute in stews, soups and porridges. Additionally, seeds can be re-dried and stored for later use or ground into a flour that can be used to make porridge. Roasted seeds can also serve as a substitute for coffee.Young roots can be ground and boiled down into a thick, sweet porridge.
Modern uses of B. senegalensis seeds are being developed in Niger Republic. They include couscous, cakes, cookies, bread, hummus, canned and popped seeds. These products from natural, wild B. senegalensis were recognised with the innovation award at an international food fair in Niamey, Niger, 2012.
Leaf extracts contain carbohydrate hydrolase enzymes that are useful for the production of cereal-based flour and for reducing the bulk of cereal porridges. Due to their proven biocidal activities, leaves are also added to granaries to protect cereals against pathogens. Leaves have many medicinal properties, notably anti-parasitic, fungicidal, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Leaves, although not pleasant to taste, can be used as emergency forage for animals.
Fruits are a significant source of carbohydrates, as they contain 66.8% carbohydrates.
The seeds are sufficiently nutritious, although they do lack some essential nutrients, notably lysine and threonine. The seeds have significant levels of protein (25% of dry matter) and carbohydrates (60%). In these regards, seeds outperform local staple cereals such as sorghum and millet. Additionally, seeds are rich in zinc, iron, methionine, tryptophan, B-vitamins and linoleic acid (essential fatty acid). Seeds contain 3.6 times the World Health Organization (WHO) ideal level of tryptophan.
Leaves have high antioxidant capacity (nearly 1.5 times that of spinach) and are high in calcium, potassium, manganese and iron. The bioavailability of these compounds, however, is not very well known
Wood can be used for home construction as well as for cooking fuel in times of dire need.
Boscia senegalensis contains natural coagulants that can be used to clarify water sources. Components of the plant (bark, twigs, leaves, fruits) can be added to a bucket of murky water, and the natural coagulants will cause clay and other particulates to compact and sink the bottom, allowing clear water to be obtained from the top.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.