Bambara groundnut takes the centre stage at WhatIf Foods as the key Future Fit ingredient for all our Soups and Shakes products as well as our high-protein Bambara groundnut noodle. But what is Bambara groundnut and why are we giving this ingredient so much attention?
What is Bambara groundnut and where are they from?
Bambara groundnut, also known scientifically as Vigna subterranean, is a wonderful legume. It is native to West Africa and is grown at a low level extensively throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The crop is also grown in Southeast Asia, across regions in Thailand and Indonesia. It is a hardy legume with the ability to grow in poor soil conditions and arid climate, without needing fertilizers, or pesticides.
These traits make Bambara groundnut the go-to ‘insurance’ crop for the financially-constrained farming communities, providing them with a definite harvest and food source. Traditionally, Bambara groundnut has been consumed in various forms: eaten whole as snacks (cooked by boiling, roasting, frying); mixed into porridges and breads as flour.
Fun fact: Bambara groundnut got its name from the Bambara ethnic group, residing in modern Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Senegal
Why does Bambara groundnut deserve the spotlight?
Glad you asked. Bambara groundnut qualifies as what we call Future-Fit crops due to its awesome nutritional profile, and its ability to be climate-resilient to grow in tough conditions with minimal demands for inputs of resources.
Tell me more about the ‘awesome’ nutritional profile…
Bambara groundnut has been referred to as a ‘complete food’ as communities can supposedly live on the legume alone,. On average, 20% of the calories from Bambara groundnut are from protein, making it a good source of protein. It also possesses all the essential amino acids, and two types of essential fatty acids,. In terms of micro-nutrients, it is a good source of up to seven minerals, and a few B-vitamins, . Taken together, Bambara groundnut is a good source of nutrition, providing a balanced set of macro- and micro-nutrients.
What about the sustainability of Bambara groundnut as a food source?
These are exactly the questions we need you to ask as we join hands to challenge the status-quo of our ‘broken’ food system. There are three main ways that Bambara groundnut is a sustainable food source.
Firstly, Bambara groundnut is a good source of protein with a low environmental footprint. For instance, one gram of protein from pulses like Bambara groundnut only require 1/10th of the water footprint that would be required to obtain one gram of protein from bovines.
Secondly, Bambara groundnut is a secure and resilient food source. Bambara groundnut can survive and thrive in tough conditions with minimal demand for resources and inputs, making it the ideal crops add to our food basket as we brace ourselves for the accelerating effects of climate change and population growth, such as prolonged drought, reduction in arable land, increased areas of degraded soil unsuitable for farming, and other environmental disasters.
Lastly, and most impressively we may add, Bambara groundnut can also help remediate and reclaim degraded lands. As a legume, Bambara groundnut has the ability to capture atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into nitrogen compounds in the soil. The Bambara groundnut improves the overall soil fertility where it is grown. A small-scale trial in Ghana, where the legume was grown in soil degraded by intensive mining activity, has shown that Bambara groundnut can remediate the acidic soil by the aluminium and hydrogen content of the soil. The soil’s biodiversity and nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, also significantly increased.
Pretty impressive for an ‘underutilised’ crop, right?
WhatIF Foods strive to harness the raw potential of Bambara groundnut as a Future-Fit crop. We believe to change our current food system; we need to harness the resilience and nutrition of these powerful plants nature has allowed us. Our team of food scientists have successfully incorporated Bambara groundnuts in a variety of products that are familiar and accessible to consumers like the instant noodles and soup/shake powders that you see on our product pages.
We'd love to hear what you think! Let us know at email@example.com and perhaps grab a Bambara groundnut item on the way?
Psst. What’s most exciting is how versatile these products are. But that’s for another discussion.
 J. Mubaiwa, V. Fogliano, C. Chidewe, and E. J. Bakker, “Utilization of bambara groundnut ( Vigna subterranea ( L .) Verdc .) for sustainable food and nutrition security in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe,” PLOS One, pp. 1–19, 2018.
 C. T. Nono, W. F. Gouertoumbo, and E. Youmbi, “Origin and Ecology of Bambara Groundnut ( Vigna Subterranea ( L .) Verdc : A Review,” no. November, 2018.
 R. J. Hillocks, C. Bennett, O. M. Mponda, and C. Maritime, “Bambara nut : a review of utilisation , market potential and crop improvement,” African Crop Sci. J., vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 1–16, 2012.
 R. Azman Halimi, B. J. Barkla, S. Mayes, and G. J. King, “The potential of the underutilized pulse bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.) for nutritional food security,” J. Food Compos. Anal., vol. 77, pp. 47–59, 2019.
 D. N. D. Yao, K. N. Kouassi, D. Erba, F. Scazzina, N. Pellegrini, and M. C. Casiraghi, “Nutritive Evaluation of the Bambara Groundnut Ci12 Landrace [ Vigna subterranea ( L .) Verdc . ( Fabaceae )] Produced in Côte d ’ Ivoire,” Int. J. Mol. Sci., vol. 16, pp. 21428–21441, 2015.
 J. Mubaiwa, V. Fogliano, C. Chidewe, and A. R. Linnemann, “Bambara groundnut ( Vigna subterranea ( L .) Verdc .) flour : A functional ingredient to favour the use of an unexploited sustainable protein source,” pp. 1–19, 2018.
 Water Footprint Network, “Water footprint of crop and animal products: a comparison,” PLOS One, 2014.
 C. Daniel, O. D. Wiafe, and B. O. Boye, "Restoration of biodiversity using voandzeia subterranea (Bambara beans) ,’” 2016.