Wild food plants play an important role in the diet of inhabitants of Oyam District. Some of these plants are drought-resistant and gathered throughout the season. These foods are an important source of nutrients. However, there is a lack of comprehensive data regarding the nutrient content of these indigenous plants. The purpose of this study was to document and assess the nutrient and mineral content of some of these plants. Ethnobotanical surveys were used to collect data through formal and informal interviews and focused group discussions. Voucher specimens were collected during field excursions and deposited at Makerere Herbarium. Nutrients and mineral analyses were carried out through known laid down procedures. Wild and cultivated fruits, seeds, underground organs and vegetables from Ngai and Otwal Sub counties were analysed for mineral elements that is; calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus concentrations. Also nutrients such proteins, beta carotene, vitamin C and dietary fibre were determined. A total of 20 plant samples were analysed comprising both wild and domesticated food plant species so as to give a basis in comparison in nutrient and nutrient element. On average, vegetables were found to be rich in nutrients and minerals compared to seeds, fruits and roots. The wild food plant species were rich sources of nutrient element for example the highest concentration of calcium was found in copper leaves 867.59 mg/100g compared to 47 mg in broccoli or 77 mg in okra. Plant species that showed high iron contents [>30%] were leaves of swamp hibiscus, African spider flower, fruit of Tamarind, Black night shade and Jews mallow. It was also noted that among the food plant species analysed, fruits were low in nutrients and mineral elements. Some of these food plants were also considered to have medicinal properties by the locals such as African spider flower, Rattle pod among others. However, it should be noted that there is a general decline in the consumption of wild plants, despite the apparent high nutritional values. The conservation of wild food plants is not taking place among the communities in the study area, thus the poor rural communities who are limited on balancing their diet could be faced with diseases associated with nutrient deficiencies.
Keywords: Wild food plants; Nutrient; Mineral
African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, Volume 13 No. 2 April 2013