List of Nigerian Vegetables used for cooking
This post was inspired by Eko & Efo, a pride food combination amongst my father’s people. Efo (Vegetable) is the most important part of the meal combination and it’s therefore prepared with much finesse. This meal brought about a conversation on Nigerian vegetables that are used in soup preparation and we decided to put together a list:
Efo Yanrin (Wild Lettuce)English Name:Dandelion greens Local Name: Efo Yarin (Yoruba) Botanically: Taraxacum officinale, Family Asteraceae
The leaves of this vegetable plant are eaten fresh as a salad or cooked in soups and sauces. The plant is often grown for cropping the leaves which are sold in markets cooked or rolled up balls. The mineral content of the leaves is known to be relatively high (21.8%).
Efo ewuro (Bitter leaves):English Name: Bitter leaf Local Name: Ewuro (Yoruba) Botanically: Vernonia amygdalina, Family Compositae
The bitter leaf is a very important vegetable for most Nigerians, it can be purchased in many markets throughout the year and it’s planted commonly in home gardens. Wherever it grows, it flourishes. There are several species; some large, leafy and deep green leaves, while some have comparatively smaller leaves. As the name implies, the leaves are very bitter;the bitterness is usually removed by washing or boiling the leaves.
Efo Tete (African Spinach):English Name: African Spinach, Callaloo Local Name: Efo Tete (Yoruba) Botanically: Amaranthus hybridus, Family Amaranthaceae
This vegetable is a perennial herb. As expected, it is in great abundance during the rainy season. Historically, it is said to reach West Africa from Asia. The stem and leaves are edible. The plant grows in three main colors (Pink, deep red and green); the colored varieties are planted for decorative purposed in North America. The green colored variety is the only consumed assortment in Nigeria.
Efo Shoko:English Name: Lagos Spinach Local Name: Shokoyokoto (Yoruba) Botanically: Celosia argentea, Family Amaranthaceae
The “Lagos Spinach” is a very popular vegetable in Lagos Metropolitan area markets. It is commonly sold during raining season. A perennial herb, the flavor profile is slightly bitter and the leaves are slightly diuretic. While being cooked, its slight bitterness is counteracted by the addition of ground melon and condiments. The Yoruba’s call it “sokoyokoto”, to emphasize the esteem in which the vegetable-plant is held ‘Sokoyokoto” means “make husband fat”
Gbure (water leaves)English Name: WaterLeaf Local Name: Gbure (Yoruba) Botanically: “Talinum Triangulare, Family Portulacaeae”
As the name implies, the waterleaf vegetable is extremely abundant during the rainy season. Ironically, the waterleaf plant is scientifically classified as a weed. The plant is very easily propagated by cuttings and by seeds; it has a quick growing and short life cycle. The vegetable is eaten cooked, in salads and in soups. It is reported by experts to be rich in mineral salts and amino acids as well as having anti-scorbutic properties.
Efo Igbo (Eggplant leaves):English Name: African Egg Plant leaf Local Name: Efo Igbo (Yoruba) Botanically: Solanum macrocarpon, Family Solanaceae
The ‘African Egg Plant” is one of the most glamorous vegetables in Lagos Area Markets. The vegetable does not come to the market in comparatively large quantities like the others; it is cherished amongst the Yoruba people. The plant is usually cultivated for its leaves, which are a bit bitter; the fruits are eaten occasionally but are mainly preserved for purposes of propagation.
Amunututu:English Name: Malabar Spinach Local Name: Amunututu (Yoruba)
Botanically: Basella alba, Family Basellaceae
This vegetable is an Afro-Asian plant. Locally, it is known as “amunututu” which literally means “a cool appetiser to the stomach” and also ‘Toromoganna”, which means ‘a wall climber”.
The leaves are succulent with high water content. It is both an annual and/or short lived perennial. The flavour profile is mild and the texture is mucilaginous (similar to aloe vera). This vegetable is high in calcium and iron and to be a good source of vitamins A, B and C; Rich in protein and a good source of soluble fiber.
blue basil (scent leaf)
Botanically: Ocimum gratissimum, Family Labiatae
“Efirin” (scent leaf) is an important vegetable sold across the country because of its manifold medicinal usages, it’s also commonly grown around houses as a mosquito repellant.
For the longest time, I assumed African blue basil and African Basil were the same, they are not. The most notable difference being that the leaves of African blue basil start out purple when young, only growing green as the given leaf grows to its full size, and even then retaining purple veins. It is believed that African basil has analgesic that is why it’s an essential part of meals prepared for women postnatal.
Ebolo:English Name: Yoruban bologi Local Name: Ebolo (Yoruba) Botanically: Crassocephalum rubens, Family Comopositae
“Ebolo” is an uncommon vegetable, it is sold only after the arrival of the new yam, deep into the rainy season. The whole young plant and the semi succulent leaves are mucilaginous and are a potherb eaten in soups and sauces. The leaves are slightly laxative
Afang Leaves:English Name: ? Local Name: Afang (Ibibio), Okazi (Igbo) Botanically: Gnetum africanum, Family Gnetaceae
This vegetable is very popular among the ethnic peoples of southern and southeastern Nigeria. The Efik and Ibibio peoples call it ‘afang’ while the Igbo’s call it “okazi”. The plant is not cultivated; the leaves are collected as forest products.
Afang is a significant source of protein, carbohydrates, essential amino acids (non essential amino acids and mineral constituents i.e. macro and micro-elements
The leaves and young shoots of the “ugu” vegetable are frequently eaten as a potherb and cooked as soups. Ugu is believed to be the most eaten vegetable among the Ibo speaking people. There are several purported nutrition and health benefits of Ugu , substantial research is lacking. Ugu is efficient in building up or renewing cells and tissues as well in the treatment of anaemia (Ukwuoma and Mauaya,2005 and Beck,1980 ).
p.s. – “There is no Yoruba name for parsley, as it is not originally West African. You can get the seeds and plant them, they will grow in tropical and sub tropical, will grow in the summer in temperate countries. “
What is your vegetable of choice for soups? If you have any other vegetables to add to the list please email us – [email protected] or leave comment below.
Much gratitude and credit to Mr S.O Disu for his inexhaustible archive.