Taste of Africa

Enjoy the diversity of a continent right in your backyard by growing some of Africa's tastiest fruits and vegetables.

| Summer 2013

  • ‘Goyo Kumba’ eggplants are smooth and round, and often have indentations that make the fruit look similar to a small pumpkin.
    Photo By Brian Dunne
  • Cowpeas are found in different sizes and in a range of colors from white, brown, red, green, and black and can be speckled or solid.
    Photo By Wendy Kiang-Spray
  • ‘Tunisian Baklouti’ peppers are described as fruity, almost sweet, with a rich, hot flavor that becomes milder upon cooking.
    Photo By Brian Dunne
  • Okra is a very large plant that can grow to 6 feet high. Dwarf cultivars may be preferred in smaller gardens. Pods must be picked young, about 2 to 3 inches long, as they get very tough when they mature.
    Photo By Brian Dunne
  • African horned cucumber, or jelly melon, is both ornamental and delightful in drinks and desserts.
    Photo By Brian Dunne
  • In Africa, plantains are usually boiled or fried and are delicious accompaniment to stews, bean dishes, and soups.
    Photo By fotolia/nasakid12

Try this traditional Red Red with Fried Plantains Recipe.


The expansive continent of Africa is made up of over 54 countries. The vast landmass is comprised of every kind of topographic feature from mountains and plateaus to mangrove swamps, deserts, and stunning islands.

Last year, I met a woman originally from Africa who teaches African cooking classes. When I asked her if she cooked with any unusual African vegetables, she told me that Africans in the United States cook with the same kinds of vegetables that Westerners do — tomatoes, eggplant, squash, and peppers.

While this may be largely true since our selection at the grocery stores may be limited, a continent as large as Africa, with over 3,000 distinct ethnic groups, certainly grows and cooks vegetables that go beyond what is on our supermarket shelves. Fortunately, North American gardeners can grow these special vegetables ourselves in order to get a taste of Africa.

The selection of vegetables presented here represents the diversity of Africa and are socially or economically important crops, traditional crops, or just plain fascinating to grow or eat.

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