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68. The utility of the ground-nut
The following is the essence of Dr. A.T.W. Simeons' long article on the ground-nut.
He opines that the low stamina of our people is primarily due to lack of protein, vitamins and salts in our diet. During the Bengal famine it was proved that the life of the victim of starvation depended more on administering protein than on starch. He maintains that if more protein could be provided, the net result on the national nutritional value would be infinitely better than of more cereals. Ground-nut flour contains over 50 per cent protein and is richer in it than any other known vegetable substance and very edible. An acre of ground-nuts can produce many times the quantity of protein than an acre of wheat, millet or rice. And yet we are not making full use of it. 45 per cent of the ground-nut crop is taken for the production of oil. "What happens to the remaining 55 per cent? If we can eat whole nuts, why cannot we eat them minus the oil? The economist answers, 'because we need the oil cake for feeding our cattle and for manuring our sugarcane and rice fields.' "Dr. Simeons argues that to use an edible protein for this purpose is criminal waste when we have inedible substances like dung, night-soil or guano to enrich our fields. "If we fertilize a sugar-cane field with ground-nut cake, every grain of protein we plough into the earth is lost; because sugar contains no protein at all - not to mention the loss of 10 per cent of residual oil in the cake, the vitamins and salts.... We feed oil cake to our milking cattle. The milk output increases and milk is an excellent food, but if we feed a cow 10 lb. of nut protein, it is doubtful if this will produce even 1½. lb. of milk protein. Is it worth it when we can achieve about the same result with cottonseed and other inedible products?"
Dr. Simeons quotes Prof. B. G. S. Acharya who, after controlled rat feeding experiments, has shown that ground­nut protein was found to have a high biological value. Experiments, he says, have also established the high digestibility coefficient of ground-nut protein. "It ranks with the microbial protein of yeast and closely approximates animal protein as found in milk, eggs and mutton."
"Clean ground-nut oilcake contains over 50 per cent of high grade protein, 13 per cent more than mutton, so that with every ton of oilcake that is ploughed into the field, we are using the nutritional value of a flock of 50 sheep or 50,000 eggs or 15,000 seers of milk in protein alone."
Besides protein the ground-nut contains fat, starch and minerals so that with the addition of a little extra starch and vitamin C, it is a complete food in itself. The most important vitamin deficiency in India is of the B complex which has a profound effect on the health and longevity of the people. The ground-nut is very rich in vitamin B complex, particularly in vitamin B,, Nicotinic acid and riboflavin, which are the most important factors. Mr. Kincaid, a missionary worker in a remote village of Kolhapur, testified that the children of his school have thrived on a cake made of clean hand-picked ground-nut. The villagers have overcome their prejudices and use it as a daily addition of ½ -1/5 portion to their usual cereals. Diabetics particularly have been thankful for the increased bread ration it enables them to enjoy. Children enjoy bread made from flour mixed with ground-nut flour, many adults prefer it with a little salt. Ground-nut flour can also be used for pastry and sweetmeats.
The controlled price of commercial ground-nut is Rs. 75 per ton. Edible ground-nut will be more costly. But Dr. Simeons opines that even if the price is higher than the commercial product, it will still be well below the cost of the common cereals.
From the manufacturer's point of view too, the switch­over to edible cake will not dislocate either the oil or the ground-nut market.
"India is estimated to produce about 1½ million tons of ground-nut. Thus 7 lakhs of tons of the finest food can be made available from this crop." The protein value would be equivalent to 3500 crores of eggs or 1000 crores of seers of milk or 350 lakhs of sheep. The annual loss of starch, fat, minerals and vitamins is in addition and all due to the wrong use of this valuable nut.
A. K.
Harijan, 30-6-1946