African Vegetable is a general term that includes all the numerous indigenous vegetable varieties that grow in different parts of the African continent. These range from Amaranth, Beans, Cowpeas, Eggplants, Peppers, Potatoes, Okra to yam and many more. Vegetables may be used in different combinations based upon regional availability and also the influences of many diverse cultures that occupied the country over time. Vegetables add great value to any meal being a source of valuable nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The types of vegetables that grow in specific regions vary with agro-ecology and of course are also determined by consumption preferences of the populations in those parts. Further, consumer inclinations are influenced to some extent by traditional and cultural factors as well as to a large extent by income available to a household. As in most countries, African vegetables grown may be divided into two categories:
(a) Introduced vegetables: those that have been brought from other parts of the world and cultivated.
For instance, in Eastern Africa, i.e. Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the introduced vegetables typically include kale greens (popularly known as sukuma wiki), tomatoes, French beans, white and red cabbage, green pepper, spinach, carrots, some onions, green peas, and some eggplants varieties. These vegetables are in fact found to be more common in certain urban areas where the practice among many households is to cultivate their own vegetable garden to meet some of the household requirements.
(b) Indigenous vegetables: those that inherently grow within the existing climatic, soil and other ecological conditions.
Some common indigenous vegetables that grow in Africa include Amaranthus, Spiderweed, Black nightshade, pumpkin leaves, black jack, cowpeas and also the less common Sunhemp, jute plant, Stinging nettle, African eggplant and okra.
Nutritional Value of African Vegetable
Kale is one of the most popularly eaten green vegetable in both urban and rural Africa, the reason being that it is relatively easier to produce, and involves lesser labor. Thus lower production costs make it both plentiful and affordable.
Kale is a good source of Vitamins A, C, B6 and minerals calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron as well as dietary fiber.
Tomatoes are a widely consumed vegetable and form a good source of Vitamin A, carotenoids and the antioxidant nutrient Lycopene, with anticancer benefits. They also contain some amounts of phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. Tomato is rich in vitamin C, and little vitamin B too. Its vitamin C content increases as the fruit ripens. Tomato is a low-calorie, fat free, vegetable that can be used in a number of ways.
Carrot is a good source of potassium, and manganese and also contains some amount of sodium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, fluoride, selenium, and calcium. Carrot is an excellent source of beta carotene (precursor to Vitamin A) and also contains large amount of Vitamin K. Carrots contains trace amounts of Vitamins C, E and Vitamin B.
Amaranthus is one among the better known traditional vegetables with high content of essential micronutrients including carotene, vitamin C, calcium and iron. It is rich in lysine, an essential amino acid that is usually low or missing in cereals and tubers based diets.
The Amaranth seed is treated as a grain owing to its high protein and mineral content such as iron, phosphorus and magnesium with good amounts of vitamins A, B and E. For these reasons it is recommended for infants too.