The origin of some of our favorite crops can be traced back to Africa. Our infographic shows where in Africa these crops were first cultivated and commercialized. Africa is blessed with tropical climates which support plant growth for a variety of crops, fruits, and vegetables. These are some of Africa’s indigenous crops:
African rice, (oryza glaberrima), is one of the two domesticated rice species. The second domesticated specie, oryza sativa, has it’s origin traced to Asia.
African rice was first grown and domesticated in West Africa but was taken to Europe by slave west African rice farmers. The rice grains are often reddish in color and some of its varieties are strongly aromatic. The grains are also smaller than Asian rice and are pear shaped.
African rice used to be popular but have been replaced by the domesticated Asian rice.
Dika nuts (Irvingia gabonensis), is the edible nut gotten from the Dika tree. It is also called Dika bread or Gabon chocolate and is native to West Africa. The fruit is similar to Mango and is informally called “African Mango.”
it is grown in tropical areas of Africa from Senegal to Angola. Dika nuts are popularly eaten with plantain and can also be ground to make flour. The fat extracted from the seeds can also be used for soap and candle making.
Cowpea ( Vigna unguiculata), is one of the oldest crops to originate from Africa. The crop’s origin can be traced back to Southern Africa. Cowpea is also called black eyed peas, due to the distinctive black spot on it’s hilium.
It is an annual crop and can serve as food for both humans and animals. Africa produces a lot of cow pea and so far, over 5.2 million tons of dried cow peas in the world is from Africa. Nigeria is currently the largest producer of cow pea in the Africa and the 4th largest producer in the world.
Kola nut is the fruit obtained from a kola tree. It contains caffeine and is often used as a flavoring ingredient for beverages. The caffeine can be extracted by boiling the nuts.
Although the taste is somewhat bitter, kola nut is also eaten raw and served in private and social settings. In certain parts of Africa, kola nut is offered to chiefs.
The nativity of bambara groundnut (Vignaa subterrane) can be traced to Cameroon.
Bambara groundnut is a type of plant whose pods ripen underground and they can be eaten fresh or boiled. When immature, it is usually soft and sometimes eaten raw. At maturity, it becomes hard and requires boiling. It is also fried and eaten as a snack called “kacang bogar.”
Palm fruit (Elaeis guineensis) is the fruit gotten from the African oil palm tree.
The palm fruit is reddish and is about the size of a plum. The fruit grows in large bunches and usually takes about 5-6 months to mature.
Each fruit has an oily, fleshly outer layer with a seed inside. This seed is called “palm kernel” and it is also rich in oil. The oil extracted from the palm fruit is used to produce palm oil.
image cred : https://www.gondwana-collection.com
Monkey oranges (Strychnos spinosa) are wild fruits indigenous to the tropical parts of Africa. The shape of the fruit is similar to that of pears and oranges.
The fruits start out green but turn yellow when ripe. They contain many hard brown seeds. The fruit is usually processed to juice, jam, or wine. It is also eaten by animals such as monkeys.
The monkey orange tree is used as a shade to combat erosion because of its wide leaves.
Water melon (Citrullus lanatus), is a juicy fruit with a hard green colored back and juicy red flesh inside. It also has many little black seeds inside and the fruit is 92% water.
According to Watermelon Board, the first watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5000 years ago in Egypt and depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings.
African cabbage (Cleome gynandra), is a green vegetable. It has sparse oval shaped leaves and white (pink as they age) flowers. The flowers and leaves of this plant are both edible and are often used as spices.
The leaves have a strong bitter and sometimes peppery taste. They are eaten boiled or used in stew. They are a popular diet in South Africa.
Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a tree of the palm family, cultivated for it’s edible sweet fruit. The fruit is a staple and chief source of wealth in some areas of North Africa.
All parts of the date palm tree are useful; the trunk can be used as timber, the midribs can be used for crates and furniture, the leaf lets can be used for basketry, the fruit stalks can be used for rope, and the fruit itself can be used as food when sun dried.
Lettuce ( Lactuca sativa) , originated from Egypt.
It is a vegetable, usually eaten raw in dishes such as salad and sandwiches. It’s sign of freshness is usually seen in it’s crisp green leaves. It generally does not have a strong taste as it has a high water content.
When storing lettuce, it is refrigerated in lose plastic nylon to maintain its freshness and crispness.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee as the first specie of coffee cultivated (arabica coffee) was cultivated there. 60% of the coffee produced worldwide is arabica coffee while 40% is robusta.
The seeds (coffee beans) are roasted and used to make beverages. Caffeine is present in coffee, giving it a strong, distinctive taste.
Brazil is currently the largest producer of coffee, responsible for a third of all the coffee produced in the world. It has been the largest producer for about 150 years.
Okra, also known as also known as “ladies’ fingers,” is a fuzzy green crop whose origin can be traced to Ethiopia.
The pods contain white seeds. These seeds have a juicy slimy feel. Pods are cooked, pickled, eaten raw, or included in salads
It grows well in a variety of climates because it adapts well to conditions that are both humid and dry. It is popularly grown in west Africa and south Asian regions.
Sorghum is a cereal grain plant whose origin can be traced back to Ethiopia in 3,000 bc.
Rice, wheat, maize, barley, and sorghum make up the class of the top five cereal grains.
The grain is usually ground and made into porridge, cake, and other foods. It is also used in making edible oil and alcoholic beverages. The stalks are used as building materials and also in the production of ethyl alcohol for biofuel.