Underutilized Crops of Indian Subcontinent - Nyjer/Niger
Niger/Nyjer seed (Ramtil in Bengali and Hindi, Sarguja in Santhali, Khurasni/Goda in Marathi, Gurellu/Huchellu in Kannada) is a treasure trove of nutrients having 483 calories, oil (30-40%), protein (10-25%), soluble sugars (12-18%), crude fibre (10-20%), moisture (10-11%) and ash (4%). Nyjer (Guizotia abyssinica) seeds contain vitamin
B1, B2, B3 and minerals like Fe, Ca and P. Dehulling is reported to be improving nutritional characteristics of seed eg. protein content (by inactivation of trypsin inhibitor activity), protein digestibility, essential amino acid (EAA) index, biological value, nutritional index and calculated-protein efficiency ratio (C-PER). The oil and seeds are completely free from any toxic substances. The seeds are an important source of iron, content higher than all other oilseeds. It is also used as bird food. It is a drought-tolerant oilseed crop which doesn't usually suffer from pest attack and can be grown with minimal input.
Guizotia abyssinica plant originated in Ethiopia, and its wild ancestor is probably Guizotia schimperi Sch. Bip. Its domestication probably occurred before 3000 B.C. in the highlands of Ethiopia, where it is still grown as an oilseed crop. From there, traders brought it to India before the Christian era and presumably during the same period it was spread to other countries in East Africa. Traditionally, nyjer oil is used as a massage oil for relief from aches, pains and skin problems. Value-added products using niger seeds can be supplemented to children and women to eradicate malnutrition.
2 traditional Indian recipes:
Niger Chutney (dry) - Marathi cuisine
100 gm nyjer seed, 6-8 red chilli, 2-3 cumin seeds. Roast until the seeds stop crackling. Roast chillies and cumin separately, cool and grind all ingredients. Mix with salt. Store in an airtight container.
Niger Chutney (dry) - Kannad cuisine
1 cup seeds, 8-10 garlic cloves, 5 Guntur red chillies, 5 Byadagi red chillies, 1/2 cup dry coconut, curry leaves
Salt to taste
A spoonful or two of the roasted seed powder can be added to curries to improve the taste and bring down the oil requirement of any recipe. Chutney can also be mixed with dough to prepare spicy rotis.
Source: 1. Bhagya and Sastry 2003 3. Gopalan et al. 2007 4. Wikipedia
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