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Six super simple recipes for Africa’s super vegetables

Both nutritional experts and agricultural researchers are excited by the growing taste for indigenous ‘super’ vegetables in Africa. Amaranth, nightshade and jute are just a few of the crops emerging from the obscurity of hard-to-find specialised markets and rural populations by slowly finding their way onto metropolitan plates continent-wide.

Richer in protein, vitamins and iron than traditional non-indigenous crops like collard greens and kale, it’s no wonder these super vegetables are currently enjoying a boom in popularity. Get in on the trend by checking out and trying the scrumptious, healthy and super simple African super vegetable recipes below.

Nightshade leaves

Nightshade

This recipe is for African nightshade (Solanum scabrum). Do not use other plants from the Solanum genus.

Ingredients

2 handfuls of African nightshade leaves, 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, 3 tablespoons cooking oil, ½ cup groundnut flour/paste, salt water (enough to cover the leaves).

Method

1. Sort, wash and cut the nightshade leaves into small pieces.

2. Boil the water, add the salt and vegetables, and then cover pot and cook until the leaves are soft.

3. Drain off the water (if desired).

4. Wash, peel and slice the onion and tomato.

5. Prepare/cook groundnut flour/paste until ready.

6. Fry the onions, then add the tomato and stir until soft.

7. Add the boiled vegetables and stir well.

8. Add the fried vegetables into the groundnut sauce.

9. Season to taste and serve with any staple food.

Cream of nightshade spinach

This recipe from Kenya is for African nightshade (Solanum scabrum). Do not use other plants from the Solanum genus.

Ingredients

4 cups African nightshade leaves (or a mix of leaves), water (enough to cover the leaves), ¼ cup cream or milk 1 onion (chopped), 1 tomato (chopped), 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons oil.

Method

1. Wash the leaves and drain.

2. Boil 1 cup of water, add the leaves and cook for 15–25 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and drain excess water if desired.

4. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions and fry until soft.

5. Add the tomatoes and cooked leaves, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Add the cream and 4 cups water.

7. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Traditional Jute

Jute fiber

Jute (Corchorus olitorius) is prepared in this way all over Africa. The ash or bicarbonate of soda makes the jute less slippery but do not add too much, as it will destroy some of the nutrients.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh, cleaned jute leaves, ash or bicarbonate of soda (small amount), water (enough to cover the leaves).

Method

1. Add ash to water in a beaker and stir well.

2. Add mixture to pot.

3. Stir and add washed leaves when the water is cooking.

4. Boil until tender (do not cover the pot or leave it unattended, as the water is liable to boil over).

Jute with groundnuts

This recipe for jute (Corchorus olitorius) comes from Kenya and optionally uses cowpea leaves (Vigna unguiculata).

Ingredients

2 cups jute leaves (cowpea leaves can be mixed in as well), 1 tomato, groundnut paste (to taste), salt to taste, 1–2 tablespoons liquid salt from ash (this softens the vegetables and helps to retain the green colour).

Method

1. Pick and wash the soft, young, tender jute/ cowpea leaves, and cut them into smaller pieces.

2. Use enough water for cooking and add salt.

3. Add the leaves to water and cook for 3–5 minutes while stirring.

4. Cut the tomato and add. Allow it to cook for 1–2 minutes and then remove from the heat.

5. Mix the groundnut paste very well. Add the cooked vegetables to the paste mixture and stir.

6. Serve warm with any staple food.

Spider plant with tomato

Spider plant

Spider plant (Cleome gynandra) is prepared like this in various African countries. The leaves of the plants are very rich in iron and are sometimes given to mothers after childbirth.

Ingredients

2 handfuls of spider plant leaves or leaf mixture, 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, 3 tablespoons, cooking oil, ½ cup groundnut flour/paste, salt 2 cups water.

Method

1. Pick out the tender leaves of the vegetables, wash and cut into small pieces.

2. Boil the water, add the salt and vegetables and then cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are soft.

3. Drain off the water.

4. Wash, peel and slice the onion and tomato.

5. Prepare/cook groundnut paste until ready (You may add vegetables at this stage and mix them in the groundnut sauce).

6. Fry the onions, add tomato and stir until soft.

7. Add the boiled vegetables into the groundnut sauce.

8. Season to taste and serve with any staple food.

Spider plant cooked with sour milk

This recipe for cooking spider plant (Cleome gynandra) comes from Kenya. Preparing spider plant with milk reduces the bitter taste of the leaves. Fresh milk may be substituted for sour milk.

Ingredients

4 bunches spider plant leaves (4 cups), 4 cups water, 2 cups sour milk, 1 teaspoon cooking fat or oil, ½ teaspoon salt.

Method

1. Select and wash leaves with fresh water and drain.

2. Boil the water, then add the leaves and cook for ½ hour stirring occasionally.

3. Add the fat/oil and salt, and stir. Add the sour milk and cook for 5–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

All recipes compiled by IndigenoVeg project

Images via vijay_SRV /Auyon / Christopher Sessums cc

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