By MURIMI GITARI
April 5,2019,Nairobi.Sweet potato cultivation is practiced in free climatic regions and it is grown for its sweet potato tubers that are used as food after either boiling or steaming. The tubers are full of starch,vitamins and glucose that are helpful to the human body. They are also used as feeds for the livestock by various communities in Kenya.
In Meru County, farmers have realized another means of using the sweet potato tubers by putting up a plant for processing them into flour that is used in baking of bread, doughnuts and cakes and also porridge flour.
The first step of processing is to first wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly after which they are put into a machine know as Chipper that cuts them into very small pieces. They are then taken to a brancher machine that reduces micro-bio load, deactivate all the enzymes in the sweet potatoes and help maintain their colour.
After getting the tubers dehydrated using a centrifuge, they are put into trays for drying using solar drier or directly taking them to an electrical drier where temperatures are set. When using the electrical drier, they wait for about 8 hours to dry a moisture content of less than thirteen percent.
When they are readily dried, the next session is the milling one where they are milled into flour. There is a drum mixture where composite flour is made by mixing sweet potato flour with other type of flour like maize flour, sorghum and wheat flours. If there is no need of making the composite flour, the potato flour is taken to baking industry to make cakes, scorns and doughnuts. When making doughnuts, a spiral mixture machine is used to mix the flour with other ingredients for baking.
Aftermaking of dough, they are put into a proofer machine in trays where they are later on deep fried till they turn into golden brown colour. They are then cooled to low temperatures and then packed.
According to the management of the processing plant, Meru residents are have welcomed this great idea by buying their products and mainly their bread known as ‘Friendly bread’ made from the sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A compared to other foods.
The processing plant has led to creation of jobs to Meru residents and also helped in reduction of post harvesting losses of sweet potatoes.