Locust bean, also known as carob, is quite popular in West Africa and is used mostly as local seasoning for soups and stews. However, do you know that it is actually not a grain or a legume, but actually comes from a tree? While only being distantly related to beans and the grain family, it is also known as Parkia biglobosa, is indeed a tree indigenous to the savannah regions of Africa.
Contrary to belief that the locust bean tree can be found only in Africa, South-East Asia and Tropical South-America also have regions where parkia trees grow. In countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, its seeds are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable known as ‘petal’.
Many Nigerian soup and stew delicacies such as efo riro, ayamase, ewedu are prepared with locust beans. Over here, it goes by many names; in the South East, it is called ogiri while the South Westerns call it iru, up North you will get dawadawa. An interesting fact about the locust bean is that the fruit pulp and seed extracts are really what is fermented to produce what is used in local meals. Although it has an unsavory smell and looks like pellets of cow dung, it possesses numerous nutritional and medicinal benefits.
According to research, the locust bean helps to promote good sight and reduces the odds of hypertension and diseases like stroke and diabetes. It also contains tannins, astringent substances found in many plants which are often recommended for treatment of diarrhea. Further, the portion of carob that is made into locust bean gum contains soluble fibre in the galactomannan family. Like other forms of soluble fibre, it has shown potential benefit for enhancing weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels. There are also claims that the locust bean helps to decrease arterial blood pressure, based on results published in a Science Journal based in Dakar, Senegal. The researchers tried out locust beans on rats to find out whether it actually has any impact on controlling blood pressure and the result obtained showed that adequate doses of locust beans helped to decrease arterial blood pressure.
Another great wonder of the locust bean tree is that the pulverized bark can be used to heal wounds and serves as one of the key ingredients used in treating leprosy. Scientists have also concluded that both the water and alcoholic extracts of fermented seeds of African locust bean exact a blood sugar-lowering effect. Only the water extract of it can ameliorate the loss of body weight usually associated with diabetes. In Cote d’Ivoire, the bark is also used as bath for fever and as a hot mouth wash to steam and relieve toothache.
Large quantity of locust bean is found in the savannah region of Oyo, Osun and Kwara states respectively.
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