Keywords: Fluted pumpkin, Leafy vegetable, Traditional preservation, Plant shelf-life, Food security
Leafy vegetables have short shelf life due to their succulent nature. This study assesses local preservation methods to infer the most suitable and prevalent approach for increasing the shelf life of Telfaria occidentalis. Common post-harvest preservation of T. occidentalis includes refrigeration, wrapping in banana leaves, exposure on bare floor, drying on rooftops, and mixing with leaves of Vernonia amygdalina. Daily physical observations and moisture content determination were done for ten days after exposure to the local preservation conditions. Results suggest that wrapping T. occidentalis leaves with plantain leaves was the most prevalent preservation method in the study area. However, this method had the highest rate of T. occidentalis leaf degradation (which began after 3 days) compared to the other methods employed in the study. In terms of moisture content and ferulic acid composition, refrigeration was observed to be the most suitable preservation method. It maintained foliar moisture content of > 60% for eight days, whereas moisture content was < 25.5% on the fourth day in the other preservation method assessed. Similarly ferulic acid content in the refrigerated samples (147.44 mg/ml) was highest at 10 days after, compared to the baseline value (42.87 mg/ml) and those of leave samples on bare floor (56.95 mg/ml). In conclusion, local preservation methods like drying and exposure on rooftops and bare floor, respectively, should be supported to increase the availability of dried T. occidentalis leaves while electric power supply required for refrigeration need to be improved.
The authors are grateful to IAESTE for supporting Pieter-Jan Loveniers during the study.