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Get To Know Your WaterLeaf

Botanically known as (Talinum Fruticosum or Talinum triangulare) and  commonly known as Waterleaf; is a herbaceous annual and perennial plant with light green edible leaves. Water leaf is scientifically classified as a weed, it is extremely abundant in rainy season, easily propagated by cuttings and by seeds; it is quick growing and has a short life cycle making it a highly perishable vegetable.

Waterleaf originated from tropical Africa, widely grown in West Africa, Asia, and South America respectively. It has succulent stems ranging from 30 – 100cm heights. It is often harvested from the wild for local consumption and cultivated in various parts of the tropics for its edible leaves. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental pot plant or as an edging plant in gardens.

Waterleaf is particularly grown in larger scales by most rural and urban farmers in some African countries not just for personal consumption but also as a means of livelihood due to the peculiar nature of its profitability to these farmers. Recorded among these unique benefits are; (1) that it is a short duration crop which is usually due for harvest between 35-45 days after planting. (2) That it is used as a “softener” when cooking fibrous vegetables such as Afang (Gnetum africanum), Atama (Heinsia crinata), and fluted pumpkin (Telferia occidentalis). (3) That the leaves and young shoots serve as a thickening agent to sauces causing it to be consumed in large quantities in the Southern part of Nigeria. The rather increasing domestic demand and supply gap of this product has made it a unique opportunity for farmers who have found the time and the need to grow them in larger quantities.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF WATERLEAF

  • Nutritionally, waterleaf has been proven to be high in crude-protein (22.1%), ash (33.98%), and crude fiber (11.12%).
  • It also has some medicinal values in humans and acts as green forage for rabbit feed management.
  • Water leaves are used in the preparation of slimy soups and stews to complement most times, a starch main dish.
  • The leaves are also eaten raw in salads and sometimes used in okra soup as a coloring agent.
  • Water leaves are rich sources of vitamins, lipids and protein. Its protein content compares favorably with that of peanut, cowpea, millet and cashew nuts.
  • Waterleaf can delay the onset of heart diseases and stroke.
  • Waterleaf exhibits a whole range of biological and pharmacological activities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti bacterial properties.
  • A decoction made from water leaf, alligator pepper and avocado is used to treat hypertension.
  • In addition, waterleaf production provides a complementary source of income to small-scale farming households.

UNKNOWN HAZARDS ABOUT WATERLEAF:

  • Waterleaf is a mucilaginous vegetable with high calcium oxalate content. The presence of oxalate is a drawback since more than 90% of it is present in a soluble form and it can induce kidney stones if taken in excess. Blanching or cooking removes nearly half of the soluble oxalate.
  • Waterleaf also contains hydrocyanic acid (which is also destroyed in the cooking process), which is a further reason why this vegetable should be consumed raw in small quantities only and why it is not recommended for livestock.
  • Caution should also be exercised in the use of this vegetable in infant foods, the more so since it contains nitrates and nitrites, which are not removed by cooking.
  • Waterleaf is rich in saponins, which are poorly absorbed and removed in the cooking process.
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