Food blogger explores produce markets in Nigeria

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Renske Bouwer with her neighbour, Willemien Rust, at a typical produce stand in Nigeria.

Renske Bouwer from the Kreatery food blog who is a contributor to the Farm fare section of AgriOrbit, recently traveled to Nigeria where she explored the local markets in search of the perfect fresh produce for an African-inspired recipe. See her recipe below for gluten free pancakes with chia and plantain.

“As the largest city in Africa, with a population of over 15 million inhabitants, there are a lot of mouths to feed. It also has an impact on the habits of consumers. People are stuck in chaotic traffic, whether it be 6AM or 11PM. Some people travel two to three hours one way for work every day. Therefore, their time is limited, and not everyone has the luxury of regular visits to a supermarket. Supermarkets with refrigeration and air-con are also not commonplace. Informal street stalls and vendors sell almost anything you need, from fruit and veg, to cellphone gadgets, magazines, mirrors, tuk-tuk tires and linen napkins.

If and when fresh produce is available at local supermarkets, not only does quality pay the price, but the selection of fruits and vegetables is limited. Grapes, rocket, broccoli and cauliflower, for example, are all imported or typically low in quality if found locally. Some fruits and vegetables that are not locally produced, are available at specialty stores or delis, but come at a price.

Because non-local fresh produce usually has to travel far to reach you, it needs to be consumed quite quickly after you buy it as it does not stay fresh for long. This rule especially counts for fresh produce bought from a street vendor or stall that is always without refrigeration or even an umbrella.

Fresh produce and processed goods

A lot of the local fruit tastes and looks slightly different to what we are used to in South Africa.

Below is a list of some of the fresh produce and other products that are widely available in Lagos:

  • Plantains: Plantains look like very large bananas. They are more starchy than the dessert bananas that we know. They are usually prepared like many starchy vegetable in households. Plantain chips are very popular and quite nice. Find a recipe for plantain pancakes here.
  • Dessert Bananas: These bananas are very affordable, but more expensive than plantains and, as you know, sweet on your palate.
  • Mangoes: The mangoes are not the same as in South Africa. These mangoes are smaller and not quite as sweet as we are used to.
  • Pineapples: The pineapples are huge. They don’t turn yellow, but are eaten green. They are not as sweet as the yellow pineapples in South Africa. There are also pineapples from Benin which are not as big as local pineapples, but slightly sweeter and pale in colour.
  • Papaya: Like pineapples, these are also consumed while still green.
  • Limes: Limes are very reasonably priced. Lemons are not as easy to find and rather expensive compared to limes. You do, however, get local lemons, but they are nothing like the yellow lemons we are used to in South Africa.
  • Yams: The yam chips I had were quite flavourless and have a very dense texture.
  • Potatoes: Local potatoes are mostly small with yellow flesh.
  • Sweet potato: The flesh of the locally produced sweet potato is pale. Orange flesh sweet potatoes are imported.
  • Eggplant: These are widely available and inexpensive. The sizes range from very little (about the size of a small plum) to very large (medium-sized paw-paw).
  • Red onions: This is the locally produced onion variety in Nigeria. Brown and white onions are imported and more expensive. Shallots are available at many supermarkets.
  • Oyster mushrooms: These are locally grown and much more affordable than other varieties that are normally imported.
  • Herbs: Basil, mint, Italian parsley and coriander are widely available and not expensive.
  • Beans: There is a large variety of beans available.
  • Flour: All kinds of flours are available and include yam, plantain, semolina, rice, bean and cassava.
  • Peanuts: These are very high in demand, inexpensive and sold by many street vendors.
  • Tiger nuts: Tiger nuts are marble-sized round nut-like bites. The name comes from their tiger-like striped exterior. They are part of the tuber family and grow in the ground. They taste like something between sugar cane and almonds.

Milk and dairy products

Most dairy is imported as long-life items. The average price for a litre of long-life milk is about double or even triple what you would pay in South Africa. Unfortunately, I only found fresh milk, imported from France, at one of the delis. This milk was remarkably expensive – about R200 per liter. I saw no fresh milk or cream anywhere else. The same goes for whipping cream. All cheeses are imported and awfully expensive. Even processed cheese is not affordable to many. I saw a lot of cheese that had been imported from South Africa or France. It is no wonder Lagos is among the most expensive cities to live in. – Renske Bouwer, Kreatery