Indigenous and traditional plants: South African parents’ knowledge, perceptions and uses and their children’s sensory acceptance
Van der Hoeven, Marinka
Smuts, Cornelius M.
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Background: The dietary shift from indigenous and traditional plants (ITPs) to cash crops and exotic plant food sources increases the risk of malnutrition and other nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, especially in poor rural communities. Farm communities in South Africa have been associated with poor nutritional status and extreme poverty. ITPs have been found to be affordable sources of several micronutrients. However, knowledge of and the use of these plants are declining, and little is known about the child’s acceptance of dishes prepared with ITPs. This knowledge can be used to improve the general acceptance of ITPs. This study aimed to gain insight into parents’ knowledge and perceptions and their use of ITPs in a farming community in the North West Province and to assess children’s acceptance of and preference for dishes made with African leafy vegetables (ALVs) and Swiss chard. Methods: Parents (n = 29) responsible for food preparation for children in grade 2 to 4 in two schools were purposively selected for four focus group discussions. A sensory evaluation assessed the children’s (n = 98) acceptance of, preference for and intended consumption of dishes made with leafy vegetables. The dishes were made of Amaranthus spp., Cleome gynandra, Cucurbita maxima, Vigna unguiculata and Beta vulgaris. Results: Parents mentioned 30 edible ITPs during the focus group discussions. Parents had knowledge of available ITPs and their use as food. Location, seasonal variation and rainfall affected the availability of and access to ITPs. Sun-dried ITPs were stored in sacks for later use. ITPs were perceived as healthy, affordable and delicious, hence acceptable to the parents. The children also evaluated the dishes made with ALVs as acceptable in terms of colour, smell and taste. Swiss chard was preferred, most likely because of the children’s exposure to this vegetable. Children indicated that they would like to eat these leafy vegetables twice a week. Conclusion: These results look promising for the promotion of ITPs as a strategy to reduce malnutrition in rural farm communities and for potential inclusion of these micronutrient-rich ALVs in school feeding programmes to improve the nutritional status of children.
- Faculty of Health Sciences