One of the challenges of cooking from this vast continent is naming the food. This is because there are just so many languages on the
continent, and each of them has their own name for the same type of plant, grain or finished dish. It is estimated there are 2000-3000 different
languages in Africa! Nigeria alone has over 200 languages. This is why you might take a particular type of leafy green, and find that
it is called onugbu, bitterleaf, ewuro, ndole, mojunso or orugbo, depending on where you are. The popular dish that I call kosai is actually
prepared all over West Africa and might be known as accra, akara, akla, bean cakes, kosai, koose or kose. This makes it difficult to
find a recipe, and also to track down the ingredients that you need.
If you are new to this tropical cuisine, you may find some of the ingredients unfamiliar.
What do you do when faced with an impenetrable hairy coconut, or when a recipe says "Skin the black eyed peas?" Here you can find
some guidance for preparing tropical foods and ingredients commonly used in these recipes.
What would you like to see on this page?
How to Crack a Coconut
Get a coconut
If I can find coconuts in the grocery store of the little upstate New York town where I live, I figure you can find them anywhere!
Important: shake the coconut and listen for the sound of sloshing inside. You want a coconut with water in it, not an old
dried up husk.
Coconuts have several layers - an outer shell which turns from green to brown as it matures,
an inner "stone" which turns very hard and hairy as it matures
(this is the part sold in most Western markets), another thin brown layer similar to a potato skin, the white meat, and
then the water. Green coconuts
don't have a thick husk, and you can slice them open with a sharp knife. The meat in a green coconut is softer and can be scooped out with a spoon.
There is also more water in green coconuts. Brown coconuts are mature and have developed the thick, hairy husk. This is the type I use here.
Drain the water from the coconut
There are three "eyes" in one side of the coconut, which look like small, round depressions. One of these will be soft enough to poke through with a
skewer. Rotate your skewer in the eye to make your hole as big as possible. Then shake the water from the coconut, holding it over a bowl. You can strain
the water and use it to cook rice.
Bake the Coconut
If you love to wield a machete, you can just open the coconut with a mighty whack. You can also pound it with a hammer until the shell cracks.
If you want to procede more cautiously, baking the coconut will cause the sides to split naturally and facilitate taking off the husk. I find that if I
bake it first the coconut comes out of the shell in more or less one piece, and it is much easier to peel. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and bake the
whole coconut on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes. Make sure to let it cool down before continuing.
Remove the hairy brown shell
You can do this with a blunt table knife, that won't slice your hand if it slips. Wedge it under the coconut shell and pry off the shell. If the shell
hasn't cracked yet give it a whack with a hammer to help it along. If you're lucky the shell will come off in one or two pieces and you will be left with
a round nut covered with a thin brown membrane.
Peel the membrane from the nut.
You can use a potato peeler for this. Now you have a white, waxy nut shaped like a very large, hollow egg. Slice or grate your coconut meat.
You can grate the coconut and sprinkle over fruit salad, or use for cakes and cookies. Grated coconut will keep in the freezer for several months.
Coconut is also delicious just cut into chunks and eaten raw. Fresh coconut is worth the trouble it takes to prepare. It is also very healthy.
Coconut contains a huge array of nutrients including fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin C,
most of the B vitamins, vitamin E, and phytosterols. The fat in coconut is mostly in the form
of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT's), which are a unique
form of fatty acids with many health benefits.
1. Cut a thick slice from each side of the mango as close to the seed a possible. Score fruit on each slice with a sharp knife, without cutting through
the skin. Press inward on the skin to turn slice inside out, making the scored fruit protrude. Slice the chunks of fruit from the skin.
2. Cut the strip of skin from the middle part of the mango which contains the seed. Slice strips of fruit from around the seed. The seed is fibrous,
disc shaped and 2-3 inches long, in the center of the mango.
Pineapples are a ubiquitous fruit, but if you live in the northern hemisphere they have traveled quite a bit to reach you, and aren't always the fresh, juice
ones that you get in Hawaii or South America, where they are grown. Pineapples don't ripen any further after they are picked, so you will probably never get a
completely ripe pineapple unless you are lucky enough to live where they grow. But lets work with what we have. Try to pick a pineapple that is yellow or
green and yellow, not completely green. You should be able to pull a leaf from the center of the pineapple with relatively little effort. If you can dangle the
pineapple by the leaf and swing it around, reject that pineapple. The definitive test for ripeness is smell. A whiff of your pineapple at the base should
have a distinct smell of pineapple. If you can't actually smell any of the pineapples, perhaps it's better not to buy one that day!
There is also such a thing as an over ripe pineapple. Avoid pineapples that are mushy, moldy, or have a strong acidic smell, because they may be starting to
Remove the Skin
Grasp the spiky leaves at the top of the pineapple and give them a firm twist. They will break off. Carry them off to your compost heap, or to plant in
With a sharp, heavy knife, slice your pineapple directly down the middle. Now slice each pineapple half down the middle, so you have four wedges.
Slice the core from the center of each wedge, cutting about an inch into the wedge. Now each quarter will have a flat surface.
Slice the skin from the outside of each wedge, cutting about 1/4 inch into the wedge, on the outside. It's easier to do this with the wedge sitting flat on the
counter and the knife underneath, as pictured. Now you have four long pieces of peeled pineapple. Cut off any remaining eyes from the pineapple.
Cut the Pineapple into Pieces
Cut your pineapple pieces lengthwise into 2 or 3 strips, depending on how small you want the pieces. Then cut the strips crosswise into chunks. Pile the
chunks into one of your rinds and sprinkle with grated coconut for a fun presentation.
Ghee is an Indian (Sanskrit) name, and traditionally used in Indian food. However, it really is just another name for clarified butter, and many people know it
and buy it by the name ghee. This golden, nutty oil is used extensively in North African, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking. In Morocco, it is used to make
a salted, herbed butter called smen. Ethiopian cooking uses a spiced version called
niter kebbeh. Ghee is called for to prepare many of the
Indian-style foods of the East African cuisine.
Clarified Butter, or Ghee
1 pound real unsalted butter
1. Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan.
2. As it melts, the solids will separate from the butter in a fluffy light foam. Skim this foam off the top with a spoon.
3. Continue to barely simmer and skim, until the ghee has stopped foaming, about 30-45 minutes.
4. Strain out any black particles which have settled at the bottom of the pan. These are casein particles.
5. Cool and store in the fridge, or in a shelf away from heat and sunlight. This will keep for months, or plenty long enough for you to use it all.
1. Soak black-eyed peas overnight, or about 8 hours.
2. Drain peas. Put on a good movie or your favorite music and settle in, because the next step takes a while.
3. You want to slip the skins off the peas, and then rinse them off with water. You can do this by taking big handfuls of peas and rubbing them together
vigorously between your hands. I give them a few mashes with a potato masher, pressing down on the peas and turning the masher. You can also put them
in your food processor and give a few quick pulses to break them up and make the skins easier to remove. You have to be careful with this though, because
you don't want to puree the skins and peas together.
4. Periodically as you are removing the skins, fill the bowl with water, swish all the peas around in it and let the skins rise to the top, then pour them
off. Keep working at it until all the skins are removed.
5. It will be easy to tell when all the skins are gone because the skin has the black "eye" on it. When you rinse all the skins off the remaining peas are
cream colored. If you see any black specks in the bunch they are skins that still need to be removed.
6. This is an arduous process, but worth it to make a nice, smooth batch of kosai. Do it when you aren't rushed, and it won't seem like a chore.
Purple Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis) is native to southern Brazil but is grown in many subtropical countries. The fruit is egg-shaped, but about
three times the size of an egg. It has a thick dark red skin, which starts out smooth but becomes wrinkly as the fruit ripens. Cut through the rind and
you will find a bright yellow liquid pulp full of dark greenish seeds, which are edible. You can scoop the pulp right out of the rind, strain it if desired,
and use it in a variety of recipes. You will need 4 passion fruits to get about 1/4 cup of strained pulp. The flavour is sweet and yet tart, citrussy with
a hint of guava, heady and aromatic. If you are looking for an exotic twist to a recipe, try passion fruit.
Spanish priests in the 17th century named this plant, because it's striking flowers reminded them of the passion of the Christ. It was cultivated by the
Incas and the Aztecs. There are at least 50 different varieties, or more.
Passion fruits are very nutritious, a high fiber source of Vitamins A and C,
and potassium. However stay away from passion fruit flowers, as they
Some say that after eating a passion fruit you will fall in love with the next person with whom you make eye contact. You can purchase a
case of passion fruit (in season) from White Dove Farm in Santa Paula, CA. If you're
wondering how to use your fresh passion fruit, try some of these recipes.
Avocado: (Persia gratissima) This fruit is about the size
and shape of a pear, and often called avocado pear. The dark green skin,
which can be bumpy or smooth, covers a soft, light green, buttery flesh.
A hard, oval pit is in the center of the fruit.
Baobab: (Adansonia digitata)The dried, powdered
leaves of this enormous tree, which the Hausa call kuka, are added to soups and stews
to give them a slippery texture similar to okra. The fruit of the tree is a
large oval, 10 to 12 inches long. It is downy on the outside, with a woody
shell covering compartments filled with fibrous pulp. It is sometimes called
Breadfruit: (Artocarpus communis) This round, bright green
fruit grows on a large tree. It is about 8 inches in diameter, seedless, and covered
with a thick rind. After ripening fully, it develops a sour taste, so it should be used
before it becomes soft. Breadfruit has a mealy texture, and can be eaten raw,
in a sauce, or simply peeled, boiled and served with a butter sauce. Breadfruit
is sometimes available fresh in groceries, or can be purchased canned. It
should not be confused with jackfruit, which is much larger, oblong, and
contains large seeds.
Cashew Fruit: (Anacardium occidentale) Cashew fruit grows on a large, spreading
tree. The oval shaped fruit is either yellow or red and about 3-4 inches long, with one single cashew nut hanging
from the bottom. This fruit, sometimes called cashew apple, is not really a true
fruit, but just a part of the flower that holds the fruit, which is actually the seed containing what we know as the
cashew nut. Fruit or not, the cashew apple is a delicious combination of sweet and tart, with an astringency that makes
your mouth pucker. The nut is covered with a large outer shell which contains a caustic resin similar to the urushiol
that causes the poison ivy reaction. The nuts have to be roasted to destroy this toxin.
Sadly the cashew apple starts to spoil so quickly after being picked that it doesn't travel well, so you aren't likely
to see this fruit in colder climates.
Cizaki: (Carissa edulis) These small, dark red berries have 4 to 5 hard seeds, and
a sticky white latex juice. They can be used for jellies and jams, or pureed
and mixed in a fool. This plant hasanalgesic
Coconut: (Cocos nucifera) The fruit of the coconut palm have a
greenish-brown outer husk 2 to 3 inches thick covering a brown hairy nut. Under
this is a thin brown membrane covering the white meat. Inside the meat is the
coconut water. You can drink the water, or use it to make a delicious rice. The
meat is edible and often grated for cooking. Sometimes you can find young, unhusked
coconuts for sale. The husk can be sliced off with a sharp knife. Inside, the nut
will be creamy coloured and fibrous, but will not have the brown, hairy covering
yet. Crack the nut with a hammer to get at the water and meat. The meat will be
thinner, and soft enough to scoop out of the shell with a spoon. There
is more water in a young coconut.
Guava: (Psidium guajava) This round fruit ranges from 1 to 4 inches
in diameter. A thin green or yellow skin covers the soft and fragrant pinkish
fruit with many tiny seeds in the center. Guavas do not keep very well and
the fresh fruit is only available in warmer climates. Northerners can buy guava
jelly, guava nectar and dried guava slices.
Mango: (Mangifera indica) The large, leafy mango tree is a common sight in
West Africa with smooth, heavy fruit which falls to the ground upon ripening.
Mangoes start out green and hard, turning softer and rosy as they mature. Peel
before eating, and slice the fruit away from the large, flat white pit in
the center. The yellow fruit will taste sweeter if it is allowed to ripen
fully. Mangoes are easy to find in the produce section of most supermarkets.
Papaya: (Carica papaya) Also known as paw-paw, this fruit, which
comes in a range of sizes, is rounded on one end and tapering on the other.
The green skin turns yellow as it ripens. The peach or pink coloured fruit has
a small circle of round, dark seeds in the center, which should be removed.
Paw-paw makes a very pretty fruit salad or puree for a pudding or garnish.
You can usually find it in the produce section of your supermarket.
Pitanga Cherry: (Eugenia uniflora) This juicy red fruit with a
unique taste grows on a large decorative shrub. The cherries are 1/2 to 1
inch in diameter, and ribbed from top to bottom. They are also called Surinam
cherries, or Brazilian cherries. Pitanga cherries make excellent jelly. They
are not usually available outside the tropics.
Plantain: (Musa fehi) Originally from Asia, the plantain looks like a
large, green banana, which turns yellow and then black as it ripens. This fruit
should not be eaten raw, but can be fried, roasted, broiled, boiled, mashed or
Pomegranate: (Punica granatum) This round, reddish-brown fruit is about
the size of an orange, with a thick, leathery rind. Break open the outer skin and
you will find many compartments filled with small, red juicy seeds. You can
nudge the seeds out with your fingers and eat them. Or use a spoon, to avoid
turning your hands purple. The seeds freeze well, and make a striking
garnish. Many supermarkets carry pomegranates in their produce section when
they are in season.
Cornmeal: Maize was imported from the Americas in the 16th century.
Today it is used in many fried snacks, or fermented to make kenkey and banku,
thick starches served with a spicy sauce. Maize is also combined with gari
to make a tuwo, or thick staple food. In East Africa this dish
is called Ugali.
Millet:Several varieties of millet have been grown in
West Africa for centuries. This nutty and slightly bitter grain is made into
tuwo or used for a large variety of fried and boiled snacks. It is also known
as gero or acha. Millet is available in health food stores and by mailorder.
Rice: Rice is grown in many of the wet coastal areas and around the river
valleys of West Africa. Ground rice, or rice flour, is used to make snacks,
breads and fufu or tuwo. Northern and East Africa have long been familiar with
rice due to the Asian and Indian influence on their foods. You can grind
your own rice flour, buy it from a health food store or through mail order
Sorghum: This staple grain has been grown for hundreds of years in West
Africa, but is hard to find in the northern hemisphere except as animal feed.
Sorghum makes a delicious porridge which the Hausa call kunu. The British
referred to sorghum as Kafir corn, and many old West African cookbooks will call
for corn when they mean sorghum. It is also called guinea corn, or dawa.
Some people call them chilis, or chillis, or chiles, but we are all talking about the same thing - the smooth skinned and brightly colored vegetable that
adds so much excitement to our food. More than 3000 varieties of chiles are grown all over the world, and they come in all shapes, colors and sizes, with heat
levels that range from sweet to searing fire. The word "pepper" is a misnomer. There is actually no relation between the chile plant and the pepper plant.
Chiles are from the nightshade family of plants, or solanaceae. Other members of this plant family are tomatoes, potatoes and
eggplant. The chile genus is capsicum, which comes from the Greek word kapto meaning to bite. In this genus there are
5 species of cultivated chiles. These are chinense, frutescens, baccatum, anuum and pubescens. There are another 20 or so species of
chiles that are not cultivated, but grow wild.
Chiles originated in South and Central America. Of over 3000 known varieties today, many are grown in Africa and Asian countries, but all of
these were transported there somehow many years ago from the American continent.
The heat from chiles is mostly in the membrane that contains the seeds. It is caused by alkaloids called capsaicinoids. There are about 15 different
capsaicinoids, and because there are so many combinations possible we have a huge variety of heat and flavour in different types of chiles. One
common capsaicinoid responsible for the heat level of a chile is capsaicin.
A chile's heat, or pungency, is measured in Scoville Heat Units, or SHU's.
This system was devised by a man named Wilbur Scoville, and is based on the amount of pungency that can be detected by a taster. Because it is a subjective
measure, you'll find a range of results from different testers, instead of a gold standard for each type of chile.
The Red Savina Habanero chile used to be
considered the hottest chile in the world, but in 2006 another searing variety from India, the Bhut Jolokia, was confirmed by Guinness Book of Records to
be much hotter. The Bhut Jolokia measures twice as hot as the habanero, clocking in at over 1,000,000 SHU's. You can see the SHU levels for common types of
chiles on the chart below.
How healthy are chile peppers? You can read about the phytochemical and medicinal properties of capsaicin at
Cassava: (Manihot utilissima)The waxy tuber, also called
manioc and yuca, was brought from the Americas in the 16th century. Tapioca
is made from cassava. The raw roots contain hydrocyanic acid, which can be toxic
until it is cooked or dried in the sun. The flesh underneath the bark-like
peel is white and hard, and can be cut in chunks and boiled or added to stews.
Cassava leaves are added to stews and can be purchased dried or canned. Fresh cassava is
easily found in the produce section of many supermarkets.
Cocoyam: (Colocasia esculenta) While men are in charge of farming the
true yam, women tend to the smaller cocoyam gardens. This root was imported
from Asia around the beginning of the second millennium. It is a West African
variety of the taro or dasheen which is used to make Poi in the South Pacific.
Garden Eggs: These cream coloured vegetables are the size and shape of
an egg. You may be able to find them canned in northern climates. They
can be used in place of eggplant.
Gari: Cassava is ground, fermented and roasted to make this coarse flour.
Gari has a slightly sour taste which complements breads or fufu, or the popular
dish called gari foto.
Greens: There are dozens of varieties of dark, leafy greens used in
this cuisine. One of the most common is bitterleaf, which must be washed
thoroughly before cooking to remove the bitter taste. Cassava leaves, ewedu,
red sorrel or yakuwa, lansur (a parsley-like leaf), and pumpkin leaves are also
common. Dried bitterleaf is sold in African food stores. No matter what type
of climate you live in you will find many substitutions, including spinach,
kale, beet greens, swiss chard, dandelion, turnip greens or collards. Do not
substitute lettuce for dark leafy greens.
Melons and Gourds: (Cucurbita) Pumpkin and other types of squash are
boiled, mashed, fried or used in sauces and rice. Calabashes are large bowls
made from dried and hollowed gourds, often decorated with engravings.
Sugar Cane: (Saccharum Officinarium) These bamboo-like stalks are
sugary sweet, and chewing them is a pleasant pastime. You can buy sugar cane
swizzlers in some grocery stores, or order them from Frieda's on the Sources
Okra: (Hibiscus esculentus) These pointed, ridged green pods have a
stem on one end, and many small round whitish seeds inside. They give sauces a
slippery texture. The more you chop them and release
the seeds, the more thickening power they will have. Ground okra powder will
make a sauce downright gelatinous, so use it sparingly. Okra pods become fibrous
as they grow so the smaller ones-about 3 inches long-are preferable for cooking.
They can be used canned, fresh or frozen.
Yams: (Dioscorea rotundata) This king of crops has been
cultivated in West Africa for thousands of years. Yams have been known to
reach one hundred pounds, and grow to eight feet long. In many societies a man's
very worth is determined by the size of his yam harvest. The closest yam in
American markets is "name", pronounced "nah-may", which is often imported from
Costa Rica. It has a dark brown, bark-like skin and cream-coloured flesh underneath.
Real African yams, often imported from Ghana, are an even better choice. In a
Spanish grocery store they will be labeled "name Africanos." There are many
varieties of yam-like tubers for sale.
Ogbono: (Irvingia gabonensis) This is the seed of the wild mango, a fruit also called African mango
or bush mango. It is a different fruit from the traditional mango listed above in the fruit section on this page.
The ground seed is used for it's thickening and mucilaginous properties, in other words it gives soups that same wonderful slippery texture as
okra and baobab. This seed is purported to have appetite suppressing properties and make you burn fat at an increased rate. Research is underway.
Black-eyed Peas: (Vigna unguiculata) These legumes, also called cowpeas,
are a staple of West African cooking and are used in just about every type of dish
from stews to starches to snacks like kosai and moyin-moyin. African slaves
transported black-eyed peas to America, and they still play a prominent part
in Southern American cooking. Many people eat a dish with black-eyed peas on
New Year's day to bring good luck in the coming year.
Daddawa: This black, fermented paste is made from the flat beans of the
locust tree. This is a different tree from the European locust tree, which produces
carob beans. Daddawa, also known as iru or ogili, is stored in hard cakes.
It is extremely smelly, but adds a wonderful flavour to sauces. Daddawa is sold
in cakes, balls or bouillon cubes, only from West African grocers. Maggi Sauce
can be substituted.
Egusi: These ground melon seeds are used to thicken stews and as a part
of a steamed dumpling. Egusi is available either whole or ground in African
Kola nuts: These brownish-orange, bitter nuts about the size of a chestnut
grow in pods on a tree in the wet coastal forests. Many West Africans enjoy
chewing them, and claim they give an extra burst of energy. In social rituals a
guest is always welcomed with a kola nut, just as many Westerners welcome visitors
with a cup of coffee. In fact, kola nuts contain 2 to 3 times the caffeine of coffee
beans, and are also known as Soudan Coffee. It is easy to spot a kola nut connoisseur
by his orange teeth. Read an interesting article on the rituals associated with the kola nut
called Kola Nut Communion.
Peanuts: (Arachis hypogaea) These legumes are well suited to the West
African climate and are a staple food as well as a cash crop. They are known by the
English name of groundnuts. In Kano peanuts used to be stacked in gigantic
pyramids ready to be shipped off for export. They were also ground and
pressed into oil in the factories there, filling the streets with the smell of
the fresh, roasted nuts. Peanut butter is used as a thickener in many dishes
such as groundnut chop.
Fish can be categorized as fat or lean to help determine the best types to
use in a particular recipe. Many of the varieties below are available in
African waters, with the broad coastline and several large lakes and rivers.
Shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, crabs and lobster are popular.
Fat Fish: Fat fish can tolerate dryer cooking methods such as
broiling or baking. They do not take too well to deep frying or excessive
oil. Fat fish often have a strong flavour and are well suited to the spicy
sauces of African cooking. Bluefish, mackerel, salmon, shark, swordfish,
tuna, trout, whitefish, butterfish, shad, herring and some catfish are
among the fat fish.
Lean Fish: Lean fish are low in fat, and can become very dry if
they are not cooked properly or are overcooked. They should be cooked by
moist heat methods such as poaching or cooking in a soup or stew, or fried.
If you broil or bake a lean fish be sure to baste with butter, oil or a
liquid to prevent drying. Some lean fish are flounder, sole, halibut, turbot,
cod, haddock, perch, grouper, pike and red snapper. Some farm-raised catfish
Dried, Smoked and Salted Fish: Drying and smoking were common methods of
preservation before refrigerators arrived in this steamy part of the world.
Smoked herring or mackerel are inexpensive choices for many of these recipes.
Herring is salted before being dried and smoked, so be sure to soak it for
several hours before adding it to a sauce. You can also use smoked whiting,
kippered herring, and more expensive varieties like smoked trout, haddock or
salmon. Salted fish such as cod (stockfish) and mackerel are common in
African cooking, and should also be soaked several hours before cooking to
Ground Crayfish: This popular seasoning is made from small crustaceans
, dried and ground to a powder. It has a fishy, pungent flavour that blends
with a sauce to give it an authentic taste. You can find ground crayfish
both as a powder or whole. Throw the whole ones in the food processor and grind
them up yourself. You can also try a Spanish or
Asian grocer for dried shrimp or fish sauce.
Palm Butter: This thick red paste is made from palm nuts which have
been boiled, pounded to a pulp and strained. Canned palm butter can be
purchased in most African food stores. It is used as a base for a delicious
Ghee: Also called clarified butter, ghee has had the salt and solids
skimmed off during long, slow simmering. It imparts an authentic nutty
texture to many dishes. Ghee is commonly used in North and East African
cuisine. It is very easy to prepare at home and keeps well, so you can
have it on hand when you need it. See recipe on East African foods page.
Peanut oil: The second most common oil in African cooking,
this versatile and widely available oil can stand up to anything from salads to
Red Palm Oil: This rich, red oil is a staple and necessity for real
West African food. It is pressed from the fibrous flesh around the nut of the
fruit of the oil palm. Palm oil, also known as manja or zomi, is used liberally
in soups and sauces, yet because of the unique flavour and aroma the dishes
are delicious rather than greasy and oily. Although it gets a bad reputation
for being highly saturated, red palm oil is actually healthier that white palm
oil. Red palm oil is about 50% saturated. White palm oil is extracted from
the palm kernel itself, and does not have the same deep red colour and
flavour of red palm oil. White palm oil is often used in commerical baked
products and cosmetics, and merely labeled "palm oil." It is about 80%
Shea Butter: This fat is extracted from the nut of the shea tree of
West Africa. The smooth-skinned nut is about the size of a walnut, and surrounded
by a yellow or greenish-black pulp. Shea butter is used to make margarine and
chocolate. According to local lore the walls of the ancient Hausa city
of Surame were built of mud mixed with Shea butter. The story goes that Kanta,
the Fulani leader, ordered all the conquered Hausa cities to come and help build
the walls of Surame. Bida, Kano, Zaria, Ilorin, Bornu and Gwanja all arrived on
time. However the people of Nupe were late, and as a punishment Kanta ordered
that the mud for their portion of the wall be mixed with shea butter to make
it extra hard.