The Bambara groundnut is one of our great-tasting, goodness-filled Future 50 Foods. Learn about the origins, cultivation and nutritional value of this traditional, local crop.
The Bambara groundnut is a traditional crop in sub Saharan Africa. It is thought to have originated in the northern areas of Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa, but is now cultivated throughout the continent. It is the third most important legume grown in Africa after peanuts and cowpeas with West Africa producing 50% of the harvest. In South Africa, they are found in Limpopo and Kwa-Zulu Natal, and are also grown in neighbouring Swaziland.
Its West African roots have resulted in the most known common name, the Bambara groundnut, though this humble legume is known by many other names. In Zimbabwe it is known as the nyimo bean and in South Africa it is called izindlubu or groundnuts. Other names for the Bambara groundnut are: jugo beans, njugo beans, ditloo marapo, izindlubu, hlanga, nduhu, phonda and tindhluwa.
In South Africa, Bambara groundnuts are mainly grown in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. They can be sown after the first rains in early summer and they grow to a height of 35 cm. Bambara groundnuts have a compact, well developed tap root and creeping stems with three-leaflet clusters.
Bambara groundnuts are related to cowpeas but they are also very similar to peanuts. They start producing yellow flowers a month after planting and once the flowers are fertilized, the stems grow downwards to produce wrinkly pods. These pods contain one or two seeds and are found buried in the soil. The beans inside are almost round, with a hard shiny coat in a diversity of colours including white, cream, red, brown, black and speckled.
Bambara groundnuts contain a uniquely nutritionally balanced ratio of protein, good carbs and fats – making them known as an ideal “complete food”. Half a cup of Bambara groundnuts can provide up to a third of the plant-based protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus that an average adult needs each day, for general wellbeing. Bambara groundnuts are also a particularly good source of fibre, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc and iron.
As one of our Future 50 Foods, you can trust that Bambara groundnuts are good for you and better for the planet.
PLEASE NOTE: Not suitable for consumers who have nut allergies. Please consult with your practitioner prior to consuming this ingredient.