Agriculture is at the Center of the Nigerian economy, providing the main source of livelihood for the majority of Nigerians. The farming sector of this West African country employs about 70% of the entire country’s labor force. The country is blessed with fertile lands, good climates that support the growth of a wide variety of fruits, crops, and vegetables.
The Nigerian soil is so blessed that one can eat up a mango fruit, carelessly throw it on the ground and return some months later to find that it has germinated. This is just one of the numerous examples.
Every part of Nigeria has some crops or produce been cultivated; from a cocoa plantation in the west to palm plantation in the east, from the root crops in the South down to the large hectares of grains and legumes in the North and the middle belt where we have the food basket of the nation.
Nigeria, being a tropical country, has her share of indigenous fruits and its not uncommon to find fruit-bearing trees in backyards and streets within communities where they provide shade from the sun and of course fruits for the youngsters in particular
What Fruits and Crops Are Native To Nigeria?
African Palm Fruit:
This is an oil palm fruit native to West Africa. According to Answers Africa, the species of palm tree Elaeis guineensis was taken to Malaysia from Eastern Nigeria in 1961. This explains why the southern coast of Nigeria was originally called the Palm oil coast by the earliest Europeans who visited the country for trade.
The palm oil extract gotten from this African fruit is popularly known as red oil and can be used to make diverse varieties of dishes. The kernels or palm fruits can also be cracked with a stone and its content consumed raw or with Garri. It makes for a quick and tasty meal.
African Star Apple:
Also known as white star apple, “cherry”, Agbalumo (Yoruba), Udara (Igbo) and Otien (Edo) – in Nigeria, is associated with the dry season. Botanically called Chrysophyllum albidum (Fam. Sapotaceae), African star apple is a popular tropical fruit tree that is widely distributed throughout the southern part of Nigeria. Agbalumo is common in both urban and rural centers especially during the months of December to April. The exotic fruit has a chewable, edible skin that ranges in color from green to orange, depending on the stage of ripeness.
Popularly known as Awin in Yoruba, Icheku in Igbo and Tsamiyar kurm in Hausa, African velvet tamarind is the fruit of a native West African tree (dialium guineense). It is a tall, tropical, fruit-bearing tree. It belongs to the family Leguminosae and has small, typically grape-sized edible fruits with brown hard inedible shells.
According to research, the leaf extract inhibits the growth of plasmodium falciparum which causes malaria, therefore, taking a decoction can cure malaria, treats Ulcer and Prevents Hypertension.
Garden egg is a type of eggplant and widely eaten food crop in Africa. The small bulb-shaped vegetable has a slightly bitter taste and is either white or green in colour. Often called an eggplant, though they belong to the same family, they are not the same. The garden egg is indigenous to West Africa, whereas the eggplant is indigenous to North America, Asia, and Australia.
Garden eggs are highly recommended for weight loss diets because of their high fiber content. Fiber fills you up faster, causing you to eat less than you normally would. Green garden eggs work better for weight loss as opposed to the white ones. This fruit classified as a vegetable is also low in cholesterol and protein, further hindering significant or rapid weight gain.
This is a popular staple food crop native to Africa and Asia. It is cultivated, processed and usually consumed as boiled yam or fried in oil and then consumed. It is often pounded into a thick paste (pounded yam) after boiling and is consumed with soup. It can also be processed into flour for use in the preparation of Elubo or Poundo yam. This food crop is a primary agricultural food crop in Africa. It is known for its high content of starch and a great source of carbohydrate.
According to Sence Agric, there are over 600 varieties in the world and 95% of these crops are grown in Africa.
In West Africa yams are one of the most highly regarded food products and are closely integrated into the social, cultural, economic and religious aspects of life. Little wonder why there is a popular festival known as the new yam festival.
This is a food crop native to West Africa. Okra is a very important vegetable used to prepare different types of soups. Virtually, every tribe in Nigeria makes use of okra to prepare at least one of their traditional meals or delicacies. Thus, it is a widely acceptable vegetable.
Immature fruits may be boiled, fried, eaten raw or steamed.
Okra fruits are used to make soups, sauces, stews, curries, and even salads while the leaves are used to feed farm animals.
Young leaves are sometimes used as a vegetable, similar to spinach, particularly in West Africa and Southeast Asia.
This African food crop is best cultivated in tropical and warm temperate regions around the world.
This is a popular African food crop known for its bitter flavored taste but healthy content. It is a mild stimulant native to Africa, i.e. West Africa to be precise.
It contains a high amount of caffeine, hence used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages. Scientifically, kola nut is referred to as Cola acuminata. The Hausas call it Gworo, the Yorubas call it Obi while the Igbos Oji or more commonly Oji Igbo. It is often used ceremoniously especially during traditional meetings and weddings where it is presented to the elders and guests present.
The fruit is grown in the western part of Nigeria. Among Yorubas, there is a thriving Kola nut business. The Hausa people of Northern Nigeria casually consume Kola nut as a snack. To the Igbos, the Kola nut means a whole lot more. They believe the kola tree was the first tree on earth and therefore its fruit, the first on earth. The Kola nut has several traditional significances to many tribes in Nigeria.
Fun fact: The kola nut has a bitter taste but becomes sweeter, as it is chewed.
What Kolanut means to different cultures [Retrieved from https://medium.com/@uzoanyadominic/the-big-deal-about-kola-nuts-and-the-igbo-people-34487d2c543d on 27th February 2020]
List of fruits native to Nigeria [Retrieved from https://www.finelib.com/about/tropical-fruits-and-vegetables/19 on 26th February 2020]