The effect of desiccation on lipid content, fatty acid composition and the antioxidative enzymic capacity was investigated in seeds of Telfairia occidentalis, harvested at physiological and agronomic maturity. Seeds were dried at 5 and 28 oC, environments that induced different drying and metabolic rates. Desiccation of seeds was associated with decreased antioxidative enzymic capacity (of peroxidase and polyphenoloxidase), and thus increased likelihood of free radical attack and decreased viability (germinability). Agronomically mature seeds contained predominantly saturated fatty acids (tridecanoic), with very low levels of the major fatty acids of edible oilseeds (palmitic, stearic or the unsaturated C18 fatty acids). There was increased accumulation of the mono-unsaturated (oleic) and polyunsaturated (linoleic) fatty acids when seeds were dried at 28 oC and moisture contents have reduced to about 42 % or lower. In contrast, seeds dried at 5 oC maintained high levels of saturated fatty acids and lower levels of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Results suggest the need to develop different post-harvest protocols for seed storage, and for processing T.occidentalis to ‘improve’ the seed fatty acid profile as an oilseed for human and animal food.
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