Vegetables in Africa

There exists a great deal of diversity in vegetables on the African continent. Whilst many of these African vegetables originated on the continent, some others have been cultivated in Africa for so long that they have become African through their domestication and adaptation on the African soil. Some vegetables are pan-African, as they have been adapted across most parts of Africa, and can be grown all over the continent. However, there are a few that are better adapted to certain parts of Africa However, there exists regional diversity in African vegetables.

Africa is largely made up of 5 regions;

North Africa – comprising the countries north of sub-saharan Africa including Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Libya and Western Sahara.

East Africa – comprising Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan

The Horn of Africa – comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

West Africa – comprising 18 countries which include; Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo (1).

Southern Africa – comprising Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Exploring Regional Diversity in African Vegetables

North Africa Vegetables

Large parts of North Africa are taken up by the Sahara desert, with the mediterranean and the Nile River bordering the northern and eastern parts of North Africa. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and jute mallow flourish and are prevalent. Common root vegetables include potatoes, onions and garlic. Other root vegetables commonly used in North African cuisine include carrots, turnips, and beets. In addition, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant are also commonly used in stews and salads.

East Africa Vegetables

Some common vegetables in East Africa (comprising Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) include African black nightshade (solanum nigrum), Stinging Nettle, Amaranth, Spiderplant (cleome gynandra), Pumpkin, Black-eyed peas commonly known as cowpeas, African Eggplant, Ethiopian kale (brassica carinata) and  okra. Other vegetables commonly eaten include common kale (brassica oleracea),  tomatoes, French beans, carrots, spinach and cabbage. These vegetables, while not indigenous to East Africa, have been adapted for cultivation in the East African topography and have been acclimatised to the region.


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