There are many healthy seeds and nuts in Nigeria. Some of them are unique to Nigeria while others are grown around the world. I have listed some of the edible nuts and seeds in Nigeria and you should be able to buy most of them in a local market or at the store.
African breadfruit is a seed commonly cultivated and eaten in the Southeastern region of Nigeria. A tropical evergreen tree called Treculia Africana produces the fruit.
Due to their similar looks, this fruit is considered a close relative to other tropical fruits such as jackfruits, breadnuts, and figs.
It is usually reddish brown when ripe and its seeds are extracted after it is cracked open. These seeds can be eaten roasted or boiled. They can also be used to make cake, snacks, and cookies as well as pressed for oil.
Fun fact: Breadfruit seeds are extracted and cooked as a porridge to make what is popularly known as “Ukwa.”
Flowering plants of the Family Fabeceae produce beans. It is considered a summer crop and thus, requires a warm temperature for cultivation.
Green pods cover the bean seeds as they grow. When mature, the pods turn yellow and dry up. It is then harvested and threshed to get the beans out of the pods.
Beans is usually eaten cooked and eaten. It can also be added to soups, stews, and salads.
Fun fact: There are about 40,000 varieties of beans. They include kidney beans, soya beans, and locust beans.
Cashew grows from cashew tree, a tropical evergreen tree that produces cashew apple. It take 3-5 years to fully germinate. When ripe, they are pear shaped yellow fruits and have a grey seed attached to it. This seed is what is popularly known as “cashew nut.”
In 1550, Cashew exportation in the world began. Today, it is considered one of the highly exported seeds. Cashew production in Nigeria is a profitable business as the country is one of the major cashew producing countries in the world. Kaduna, Abia, Kogi, Enugu, Kwara, Oyo, Nigeria, Imo, and FCT grow cashew.
The fruit can be eaten raw or used to make fruit juice. Its seeds can be used to make cashew butter, added to chocolate or eaten when roasted.
Fun fact: What we commonly know as “cashew nut” is a seed, not a nut.
Fig, also known as common fig, is an Asian species of flowering plant in the mulberry family. It is native to the Middle East and Western Asia and the seeds take about two years to start producing fruits when planted.
Figs thrive in semiarid climates and are mostly grown in the United States areas of Carlifornia, Texas, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.
They are usually peeled and eaten and can also be used for fig jam.
Fun fact: Its trees have no blossoms (flowers) on their branches. The inside of the fig fruit, filled with edible seeds, serves as the tree’s flowers.
Hazelnut is the fruit of the hazel and is believed to have been in existence as far back as 6000 BC.
The nut comes in a spherical to oval shaped cob, with an outer husk surrounding its smooth shell. It is usually ripe about 8 months after pollination.
When ripe, it falls and can be picked up manually. Large scale harvest of hazelnuts requires the use of equipment such as forklift, the sweeper, or the harvester.
The brown nut can be eaten raw or cooked. It is commonly added in chocolate and also used to make products such as Nutella. Hazel nuts can also be extracted to obtain cooking oil.
Fun fact: Hazel trees can produce for about 80 years.
Almonds are a species of trees native to Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East. The variety of almonds which grows in Nigeria is called Tropical Almond (also, Indian almond.) They are usually green and turn brown or purple when ripe.
Upon ripening, almonds can be eaten raw. They can also be used to make almond milk, almond flour, almond butter, and almond oil..
The taste of almonds differ depending on its variety. One variety (Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis) produces sweet almonds, which are edible while another variety (Prunus amygdalus var. amara) produces bitter almonds, which are used for almond oil.
Fun fact: Despite being widely considered as nuts, almonds are in fact seeds of the almond fruit.
Kolanut is the fruit of the evergreen kola tree and is native to the tropical rain forests of Africa.
The fruit is purple and has a bitter taste upon initial biting, but the bitterness regresses with time.
It can be eaten raw and contains caffeine which can be extracted and used as a flavoring ingredient for beverages.
Fun fact: In Africa, kola nut is served in social gatherings and is also symbolically offered to chiefs and elders.
Macadamia nuts are the nuts of the evergreen genus of Macadamia. There are four species of the plant, three of which are edible while one, M. jansenii, produces poisonous nuts.
The nuts have a hard, woody follicle containing one or two edible seeds. Its shell is usually cracked open and the seeds can be eaten raw or roasted.
Fun fact: “Macadamia” was coined by German-Australian botanist Ferdinand Von Mueller, in honor of the Scottish-Australian chemist, teacher, and politician, John Macadam.
Maize is one of the most popular grain cereals in the world and is considered a staple food. It has many varieties which come in different colors but the most popularly consumed varieties are white and yellow.
The seeds can be boiled or roasted and eaten directly from the cob. It can also be processed to make breakfast cereal or used to make popcorn.
Fun fact: Maize always has an even number of rows on each ear.
Also known as egusi seeds, melon seeds are gotten from melon fruit. Although the melon fruit is sweet, edible, and fleshy, the seeds can also be dried and ground to serve as an ingredient for cooking.
The seeds are usually small, white, and somewhat oval shaped, enclosed in yellow like shells. Before they’re used for cooking, the shell is removed manually or mechanically.
Melon seeds are used in preparing dishes such as egusi soups and stews.
Fun fact: In Ghana, egusi is called Akatoa of agushi.
Nutmeg is the seed of several species of the genus, myristica. The seeds are usually dried for about 6-8 weeks. This gives time for the nutmeg to shrink away from the coat. Afterwards, the shell is broken and the nutmeg is picked out.
It is commonly used as a spice, which is gotten by grounding the seed into powder. The spice has a distinctive pungent flavor and fragrance and can be used for cooking, baking, or extracted for oil.
Fun fact: Despite its name, nutmeg isn’t a nut. It’s a seed.
Peanut is a crop grown in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is an annual plant and belongs to the family, Fabaceae.
An outer covering, known as the shell protects the edible seeds. Peanuts are harvested mechanically by being pulled off the ground and inverted by a machine, or manually. Upon harvest, the peanuts are allowed to dry for 3-4 days.
They are popularly eaten boiled as a snack, roasted or processed into peanut oil or peanut butter.
Fun fact: Legumes are edible seeds enclosed in a pod therefore peanuts are not actually nuts, they’re seeds.
Rice is the seed of the grass specie oryza sativa or oryza glaberrima. It is usually grown in tropical areas as high rainfall is necessary for its cultivation.
When harvested, rice is usually milled (loosening the edible parts from the straw it is attached to) and dried before it is suitable for consumption.
Rice is considered a staple food as it is eaten routinely and constitutes a standard diet for a large number of people.
Many dishes can be made from it when cooked. Some popular Nigerian dishes include native rice, jellof rice, and tuwo shinkafa.
Fun fact: Rice has the 3rd highest world-wide production for an agricultural commodity. The first is sugarcane and the second is maize.
Botanically called Cyperus esculentus, Tiger nuts are crops of the sedge family. Planting season is between April and May while harvesting is done between November and December.
Tiger nuts are harvested by being pulled out of the soil either manually or using a harvester.
The edible tubers are usually yellow and have a sweet, crunchy, and nutty taste. Tiger nuts can be eaten raw, roasted, dried, or baked. It can also be extracted for milk and oil. They serve as a popular snack in West Africa.
Fun fact: Tiger nut milk is sometimes used as a substitute for cow milk.
Do you have any seeds or nuts you want to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section. Native names are welcome.