Freshly harvested maize is highly perishable and it rapidly losses its sweetness within 3 days of harvest. This study investigated the influence of steeping on the proximate composition and sugar content of fresh maize stored at tropical ambient conditions (28 ± 2°C and 70% RH). The solutions used for steeping were salt (8%), sugar (10%), combination of the salt-sugar solution (2:3 v/v) while the control had no treatment. Standard methods were used for the determination of the proximate composition (moisture, protein, carbohydrate, fat, ash and fibre) and sugar contents as storage progressed. Results obtained showed significant differences (p<0.05) in the proximate composition across the storage period with ash and fat contents increasing while the fibre, protein and carbohydrate decreased as storage progressed. The salt-sugar solution was found to be the best steeping solution as it retained most of the sugar content of the fresh maize, followed by the sugar solution and then the salt solution respectively. There was however a general reduction in sugar contents of all the different treatments as storage progressed. Steeping in the salt-sugar solution was able to retain about 70% of the initial sugar content (sweetness) on the 12th day of storage which was the highest retention obtained. It could therefore be concluded that the salt-sugar steeping treatment given to the fresh maize had significant effect on the proximate composition and sugar content retention in the maize samples and could therefore be a useful method for short term storage of freshly harvested maize.
Key words: Steeping, sugar content, storage, proximate composition.
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