Spices from the wild
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CTA. 1994. Spices from the wild . Spore 54. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49504
Prices of cloves, cardamom, ginger, vanilla and black pepper have fallen by up to 75% because of over-production. As a result, the current unfavourable prices for these well-known spices are a disappointment for all producers and a near disaster for...
Prices of cloves, cardamom, ginger, vanilla and black pepper have fallen by up to 75% because of over-production. As a result, the current unfavourable prices for these well-known spices are a disappointment for all producers and a near disaster for some. Perhaps the time has now come to investigate the potential of many other species that are used as spices: to broaden the varietal base of spices in the market in order to stimulate changes in taste, flavour, aroma and, hopefully, demand. Some of these new introductions to the market can be used singly, whilst others may be used in combination with more familiar spices to bring about changes in tastes and demand. New spice resources In a recent survey carried out at the National Horticultural Institute, Ibadan, Nigeria it was found that out of 34 spices in the country 26 belong to commonly and locally produced types, while the handful of others are exotic imports. The locally-produced spices can be classified further into two broad groups based on their mode of production, namely (a) regularly cultivated species such as onions, garlic and peppers and (b) species grown in the wild such as African nutmeg (Monodora myristica) and Alligator pepper (Aframomum melegueta), a selection of which are listed (see table). The species grown in the wild include various plants which are potentially important and which may be capable of meeting a wide range of tastes and gaining acceptability on the world market. Locally, these spices vary considerably in their importance and popularity. Among the most important are African nutmeg or Ariwo, Eru (Xylopia aethiopicum) and Aidon (Tetrapleura tetraptera). These three species are noted for their versatility in the preparation of many local dishes and medicines. Spices from the rain forest The high rain forest region of tropical West Africa contains a wide diversity of spices which are locally important but are less well-known outside the region. Most are found growing in the wild in combination with other forest species including teak (Tectona spp) or baobab (Adansonia digitata). In fact most of the climbing types such as Piper spp. are found growing on such forest species as support. They are rarely cultivated but may exist as deliberately protected stands either on farmland or in the wild. Occasionally some species are introduced as intercrops with arable or cash crops like maize, cassava, cocoa, kolanut and rubber. In most backyard gardens where spices such as Occimum are grown they are interplanted with vegetables such as amaranth, okra and tomato. Many species occur at low population densities (Tetrapleura tetraptera is found at approximately 10 plants per 100 hectares of farmland) and, as a result, the quantity of production is low and prices at local markets can be high. The average market price of one of the most popular spices Monodora myristica is about US$1600 per ton, although there can be a price variation of about 25-50% between peak production and scarcity. As these plant species are not generally cultivated, and are even less commonly studied, they are susceptible to genetic erosion through various human activities including bush burning, deforestation, development of commercial plantations and road construction. Strategy for the future These unfamiliar spice plants must be properly identified and information on their habitats, culture and uses must be disseminated. Deliberate attempts should be made to conserve existing plants and to undertake propagation in order to distribute plant material more widely. At present most spices are used in small quantities either singly or in combination, but more information is needed to determine how to process, preserve and store these materials. Most of the spices can be stored on shelves and keep well enough for 6-9 months under ambient conditions, but better processing and packaging would extend shelf-life, which is essential if these products are to be traded or even exported. It is apparent that many African countries have under-exploited plant species whose potential uses and value have yet to be fully realized. Action to protect, research and sustainably exploit these species must be undertaken quickly or it will be too late. An initiative on the conservation of African spices is being undertaken at the National Horticultural Research Institute, Ibadan, Nigeria but a coordinated regional effort would accelerate the rate of progress. Spice Annual/ Perennial Plant type Edible Portion Uses Piper guineense P Climber Seed Flavour Aframomum melgueta P Herb Seed Flavour Aframomum logiscarpum P Herb Seed Flavour Parinaria sp P Tree Seed Flavour Tetrapleura tetraptera P Tree Fruit Aroma Xylopia aethiopicum P Tree Seed Aroma Zinngiber officinale A Herb Rhizome Flavour Occimum gratistimum P Herb Leaf Aroma Occimum basilicum A Herb Leaf Aroma Monodora myristica P Tree Seed Flavour Allium sativum A Herb Bulb Aroma Capsicum frutescence A Herb Fruit Flavour Capsicum annum A Herb Fruit Flavour Gnetum africanum A Climber Leaf Flavour Congronema latifolium A Climber Leaf Flavour Cymbopogon citratus P Herb Leaf/stem Aroma Parkia biglobosa P Tree Seed Aroma Dioclea reflexa A Climber Seed Thickening Ovurumgbede (latin name unavailable) P Tree Root Flavour Xylopia quintasii P Tree Seed Flavour Dennettia tripetala P Tree Seed Flavour Piper nigrum A Climber Seed Flavour Allium cepa A Herb Bulb Aroma Arachis hypogea A Herb Seed Thickening Thonningea sanguinea P Climber Seed Flavour