Samples of dried shea fruit pulp were collected from tree populations in Mali, Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, and Uganda. A variety of analytical methods was used to measure total soluble solids (TSS), crude protein, and mineral contents. The results demonstrate that shea fruits are a rich source of sugars, protein, calcium, and potassium during the “hungry season”, when food stores run low and the energy-intensive work of preparing land for planting must be done. A companion survey of indigenous shea tree and fruit classification was carried out in study area villages. Indigenous savanna inhabitants, especially men, emphasize the importance of fruit pulp taste, while women emphasize the butter content of the nuts. Shea fruits have greater importance to the inhabitants of the drier savannas such as the Sahel, where shea fruits have been shown to have higher nutritional values. While there is currently much international interest in developing the potential of shea butter production in Africa, the role of the fruit pulp in the local diet needs to be taken into consideration in development programs.
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