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Why locust bean is important in every African home despite it’s pungent smell, unpleasant look

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Notorious for it’s pungent smell and unpleasant look, locust bean is one of the most significant local seasoning or condiment used in preparing African delicacies.

But then, locust bean is more than just a seasoning. In this article, FOLIO POST looks at the various benefits of locust bean and why it is important for every African home.

About locust bean

Commonly referred to as iru by Yorubas, and ‘ogiri’ by Igbos, locust bean can be found in a wide range of environments in Africa.

Locust beans are primarily grown for its pods that contain both a sweet pulp and valuable seeds that have a strong coating and can last for up to 8 years.

The African locust bean tree is a versatile plant that grows to a height of 20 to 30 meters. It has a dense, widely spreading umbrella-shaped crown and a cylindrical trunk with a diameter of up to 130 cm, often branching low.

The bark is longitudinally fissured, thick, ash-grey to greyish-brown in color, and scaly between the fissures. When cut, it gives off an amber gum.

The flowerhead is 4.5-7 cm long x 3.5-6 cm broad and it has a strong pungent smell.

Uses

The seeds, pods, fruit pulp, and leaves of the locust bean are all edible and can be utilized in cooking and drinks. The tree’s fermentable seeds are particularly valuable.

It can be fermented to make a condiment known as “soumbala,” “dawadawa,” “netetu,” or “afinti,” which has a pungent odor similar to that of French cheese.

One of the most important commercial goods traded in Western Africa is this condiment, which is used for sauce and soup seasoning. The seeds are ground with moringa leaves and used in sauces and doughnuts.

Seeds are surrounded by a quantitatively significant mucilaginous pulp in the mature pod, which is separated from the seeds when they are gathered. Local African communities have long consumed its mealy pulp as a fresh food source. It may be used to produce nutritious infant food as well as a pleasant drink. The leaves can be boiled and eaten like a vegetable when mixed with grain flour. Flower buds can be eaten.

The African locust bean’s fruit pulp, foliage, and seeds can be used to feed animals and poultry. After being processed to remove antinutritional elements, the fruit pulp and seeds can be used as cattle feed.

The leaves make good feed, albeit they aren’t particularly tasty. The fact that they may be picked during the dry season when feed is scarce adds to their utility. However, because their mineral content is too low, it should be combined with other feed. The blossoms are a good source of nectar for bees and attract them. African locust bean trees are ideal for beekeeping.

Light buildings, poles, mortars, and a variety of furniture and utensils are all made of wood. It is both a valuable fuel and a source of pulp for papermaking.

Ethnomedicine has long used the bark for a variety of purposes. Coccidiosis in chicken has been reported to be treated with a root decoction. Green pods are used to catch fish in rivers as a fish poison. The African locust bean tree is used as a decorative plant. They are excellent soil improvers and give green manure in the form of their leaves.

Benefits

These seeds are commonly used to make iru, ogiri, or dawadawa, an aromatic spice.

Iru has a free radical reducing ability and is an antioxidant for detoxifying the body because the fruit has a remarkable amount of polyphenols that accounts greatly for its anti-oxidizing properties.

The anti-oxidizing properties of the fruit extracts of iru are very similar to that of ascorbic acid.

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The bark of the African locust beans can be crushed, ground, soaked and boiled for preparing herbal tea for treating and healing wounds.

Yoruba’s claim the fruits are normally used for treating hypertension and is useful for boosting the immune system, especially in immunocompromised individuals.

Individuals suffering from skin infections can infuse, soak, and bathe with the root, bark, and leaves of African locust beans.

It can also be applied to the skin to soothe burns.

It can be infused or soaked in liquid for treating respiratory infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, cold, cough and fever.

The patient has to drink and gargle on the concoction.

Iru contains a lot of tannins, thus the seeds, roots, stems, barks, fruits, flowers, and leaves can all be used to treat gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea and ulcers.

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