Oufer bread is produced from flour made from the fruit of the wild Ziziphus mauritiana, commonly called the jujube (sometimes jujuba and, in French, jujubier nain sauvage). It is a small to medium-sized fruit shrub or tree, growing up to 15 meters tall with a trunk of 40 centimeters or so in diameter. This spiny, evergreen plant belongs to the Buckthorn family, and its many drooping branches produce fruits of variable shape and size. The jujube fruits can be oval, egg-shaped, oblong or round, and average 2.5 centimeters long. The yellow skin is smooth, glossy, and thin but tight, and the flesh is white and crisp. When slightly under ripe, this fruit is slightly juicy and has a pleasant aroma.The tree can provide food security, due to sustained production of the fruit even in dry conditions, as the tree is drought and saline tolerant and can grow on poor and degraded land. The fruit has a high sugar content and high level of vitamins A & C, carotene, phosphorus and calcium. The leaves contain 6% digestible crude protein and are an excellent source of ascorbic acid and carotenoids.
The Tuareg population has consumed the jujube fruit for millennia. Some tribes in Mali make a type of flour obtained from the dried pulp of the wild fruit. This is used in the production of the oufer, a type of unleavened bread that keeps throughout the year and is sold in the markets of Gao. Oufer looks like a thick pancake, with a hole in the middle or attached to a forked stick so that it can be hung from a camel saddle with a cord or belt during transport. Oufer is at currently risk of extinction despite its place in Tuareg culture, its aesthetic characteristics, and its remarkable nutritional properties.
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