Abstract: Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del. commonly known as desert date is an important multipurpose tree found in most African countries. Like in many parts of dryland Africa, Balanites leaves and fruits provide livelihood support to many rural households in the drylands of Uganda where other options are limited. The young succulent leaves are a dependable dry season vegetable while the seed kernel obtained after cracking the nut is a valuable oil source. Local methods for harvesting and processing of Balanites products were examined as a step towards promoting their wide use and development of improved processing methods. Harvesting and preparation of Balanites leaves in Katakwi district and fruits/nuts collection and oil extraction in Adjumani district, Uganda were documented. The results revealed that Balanites leaf harvesting involves cutting the young branches and twigs and plucking leaves under the tree. Leaves are boiled within 24 h after collection to avoid loss of taste and to shorten boiling time. Boiled leaves have a shelf life of 2 days only. On the other hand, Balanites oil production starts from the fruits or nuts mainly collected from beneath the parent trees. Oil processing entails cracking the nuts to extract seed kernels followed by pounding and roasting of kernels and oil extraction by hot water floatation method. Cracking the hard nuts to obtain seed kernels is a major challenge in oil extraction process. Oil produced is too little to meet the demand. Processing of Balanites oil is a promising option for improving rural livelihoods in the dryland areas of Uganda where Balanites trees grow naturally and are abundant. However, appropriate tools for cracking the hard Balanites nuts are required to increase oil production. Ways of increasing the shelf life of processed Balanites leaves should also be explored.
Clement Akais Okia, Jacob Godfrey Agea, James Munga Kimondo, Refaat Atalla Ahmed Abohassan, Joseph Obua and Zewge Teklehaimanot, 2011. Harvesting and Processing of Balanites aegyptiaca Leaves and Fruits for Local Consumption by Rural Communities in Uganda. Journal of Food Technology, 9: 83-90.