Postharvest fungal deterioration of tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum mill) and pepper (Capsicum annum l): the “ESA” connection
In Southwestern Nigeria, many poor, illiterate urban dwellers and commercial food vendors often intentionally use physically damaged tomatoes and pepper (“esa” in the local parlance) for their cookings. This research set out to identify fungi associated with physically damaged tomato and pepper and verify their effects on the nutritional composition of these vegetables. Healthy looking and physically damaged tomatoes and pepper were sourced from Mile 12 Market in Lagos state. Fungi (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger) isolated from samples of “esa” were inoculated into the healthy looking vegetables. Using standard analytical techniques, vitamins, minerals and proximate composition were determined in both the visually healthy and “esa” vegetables (at 3 and 5 days after inoculation). Mean values from 3 replicates ± S.D was reported for each parameter. Each parameter in the Control had a significantly higher (P=0.05) mean value than those of the inoculated samples. Day 3 samples in turn had a significantly higher (P=0.05) mean value for each parameter compared to the day 5 samples, with the exception of calcium and potassium. Findings from this work have debunked the myth that “esa” tomato and pepper are as good as the visually healthy ones in terms of nutritional worth. On account of the possible health implications (associated with the ingestion of mycotoxins that are usually associated with fungal species), there is the need to enact and or enforce appropriate legislations to discourage the myriad road side restaurants in Nigeria from using these physically damaged condiments in their cooking.
Keywords: Esa, tomatoes, pepper, proximate and vitamin composition, mycotoxins and Mile 12 Market, Lagos