The Bambara groundnut is grown in Asia, parts of Northern Australia, and South and Central America and is widely distributed across the world.
It is very similar to the peanut. It is a prostrate annual with compound leaves consisting of three leaflets. Its seeds are buried in the ground in roundish pods 1.5 cm or more long for protection from pests and herbivores.
Bambara groundnut has a compact well-developed taproot system with short lateral stems which bears its leaves. Its plants may either bunch or spread out. It is a very important crop, but it is not regarded as having high status because it is seen as a snack or food supplement and not a very lucrative cash crop. Bambara groundnut is traditionally grown by women, giving it less value and less priority in land allocation, despite being regarded as the third most important legume in much of Africa after peanuts and cowpeas.
Bambara groundnut is difficult to harvest mechanically, so it discourages large-scale commercial farmers from growing them, making it ideal for small-scale, rural farmers to grow.
Ripe or immature, raw or roasted, the seeds are nutrient rich. They contain 60% carbohydrate, 20% protein, 6% oil and rich in micronutrients. It is a true quality protein food which provides more methionine than other grain legumes.
World production of bambara groundnut in 2008 was 79,160 tonnes. This is an increase from 29,600 tonnes in 1961. While world production has increased in recent years, the yield has not. This reflects a lack of sustained research on the crop and its productivity.
Information taken from Bioversity’s Nutritious Underutilised Species