If you start digging deep into Ghana’s food culture, you will find health gems. You have the traditional Ghanain dishes, and even the vegetarian and vegan options If that applies to you, but then there are these particular foods which are not soon spoken about but are amazing if you want to take your diet onto a next health level. Let’s take a look at the healthier and highly medicinal local ghanaian cooking ingredients.
These ingredients we are about to share are basically like a whole pharmacy!
Kantosey (Turkey Berry)
Known in Ghana by a variety of names – “Kantosey”, “Abedru’, ‘Kwahu Nsusua, ‘Sebe bibii’ and others – turkey berry in English and Solanum torvum scientifically, this pea-sized berry is used for a range of culinary and medicinal applications in Ghana. Interestingly enough, in past years many ignored it as it grew wildly in many backyards.
In recent times, many have grown to love and appreciate it, and is now utilized in a variety of local recipes, particularly in soups and even added when cooking kontomire. Check out some Kantosey recipes you can use Turkey berry in.
Apart from being used in cooking, research has indicated it is highly medicinal. These are some of the things it is said to help with:
- Treatment for anemia: Turkey berries are high in iron and help the body produce red blood cells.
- Regulate blood pressure: Gallic acid and ferulic acid, two unique chemicals found in turkey berries, have been shown to have substantial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities which may help to naturally lower blood pressure.
- Promote a healthy immune system: Because of its powerful antibacterial characteristics, turkey berry can be relied upon to support healthy immune function in humans. It can be used to keep wounds clean and to aid in the healing of cuts and ulcers.
Cocoyam leaf, an African Indigenous vegetable locally referred to as kontomire among the Akan people in Ghana, is used in the preparation of sauces (‘kontomire’ stew) and soups (‘ebunebunu’). It could be compared to our spinach.
You could actually make a delicious spinach recipe out of these elephant ear shaped leaves – boil the leaves for approximately 25-30 minutes. Add ginger, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and grind it all together in your Asanka bowl, one of the most traditional Ghanaian objects.
Like all other Ghanaian cooking ingredients, kontomire is full of health benefits for your body.
- Boost your immune system: Kontomire leaves are rich in vitamin C which is great for your immune system.
- Energy booster: forget about red bull, eat your kontomire leaves and increase your energy levels! They possess one of the best energy sources for the body through its essential amino acid called isoleucine.
- Promote bone and skin healing: Cocoyam leaves contain an essential amino acid called leucine which promotes bone and skin healing.
- Reduce your cholesterol: the dietary fiber and methionine contained in the cocoyam leaves can reduce the cholesterol effectively.
- Treat diarrhea: some Ghanaians say it also may help to treat diarrhea.
Prekese (known botanically as Tetrapleura tetraptera) is a species of the pea family native to West Tropical Africa, particularly the aidan trees which can grow up to 25 meters (~82 feet) tall, and are full of therapeutic qualities.
Scientific studies show that prekese has been documented since the 1940s and has been known and utilised in Africa for its therapeutic properties for centuries.
Every part of the Adrian tree can be utilised and used for something – it’s stem, root, leaves, bark and pods can be soaked, squeezed, crushed, extracted or incorporated into a variety of herbal concoctions or soups. In Ghana it is commonly used as a cooking spice which adds a slightly sweet yet stringent flavor.
Apart from cooking, it has also been utilized to create skin soaps and balms. If connected into a fine powder, it can be mixed with palm kernel oil or shea butter for skin care.
Some of the benefits include:
- Diabetes treatment: Specifically said to be good to treat type 2 diabetes.
- Postnatal care: the pod contains essential nutrients such as potassium, iron, and calcium, great for postpartum.
- Convulsion: In conventional medicine, herbal mixture out of ingredients including stem, fruit, and leaves has a positive effect on treating convulsions.
- Mosquito repellent: The fruit has an indestructible smell, due to which it is often used as a natural mosquito repellent.
Makoko corn porridge
Ma (corn) koko (porridge) is one of the healthiest local breakfast options you could have. This is the same corn that is used to make Banku, but instead the corn is turned into a paste-like texture and is then put to boil with water until cooked. You will notice that as you cook it, it turns into a thick paste, you have to keep adding water and stirring it until it becomes more watery.
How do you know it’s cooked? By the smell! It has a very particular smell when it’s raw. By cooking it for approximately 25 minutes, that smell goes away and that is when you know it is ready to eat. You can also follow this recipe for step by step instructions.
This corn porridge is something that many locals give to their newborn babies due to its many health benefits:
- Clears the intestines: great due to its high content in fiber.
- Considered hypoallergenic: reason why it is great for children.
- Great during pregnancy: it contains large amounts of folic acid.
- Great for skin, hair and nails: Due to the high content of vitamins A and E.
Moringa powder, one of the best ghanaian cooking ingredients
Last but not least, the powerful Moringa oleifera tree. Also referred to as the “magic tree”, “miracle tree”, horseradish tree” or the “drumstick tree”. As with most of the products we have mentioned in this article, Moringa has been used for centuries in Africa but without much knowledge about its wonderful benefits and uses.
The lack of access (and money) to hospitals forces many Ghanaians to revert to local alternatives such as local herbs. This is one of the reasons why Moringa has grown so strongly in popularity the past years. Nowadays, it is more than just a nutritious supplement, but also known for its powerful role in preventing diseases and enhancing body resistance.
Its uses are multiple. Here a just a few:
Moringa powder is widely used as a supplement added in smoothies, juices, or any food really. The powder is also used to prepare Moringa tea.
In Ghana, moringa is used for cooking purposes, especially stews and soups. Moringa oil it’s also considered to be one of the best oils to treat skin and hair. Also as a healing product for wounds and scars. The leaves, back, flowers, fruits, seeds and roots are used for medicinal purposes.
Benefits of Moringa
- Skin: packed with vitamin A and E which are excellent for the skin.
Immunity & helps reduce tiredness and fatigue: Moringa Oleifera leaves are an extremely rich source of iron and vitamin A.
- Muscle growth: Moringa Powder contains 9 essential amino acids making it a complete source of protein, supporting the growth and maintenance of muscle mass.
- Digestion: aids in digestion thanks to its content of calcium.
- Anti-stress & insomnia: Its powder has the soothing ability which enables it to lower the blood pressure and promote good sleep. It is a natural remedy for insomnia as it possesses certain properties that can treat sleeping disorders.
Now that you know about some of the main ingredients used in Ghanaian food, be sure to check out our Accra Restaurants Guide and start savouring them!