Bambara Groundnuts, Not Peanuts

Bambara groundnuts (Voandzeia subterranea) claim no peanuts as relatives. Another indigenous food from West Africa, the groundnut does tend to end up cooked in the same way that  peanuts are, however. Cooks use pulverized groundnuts as a thickener, in much the same way that Middle Eastern cooks use almonds and Italian cooks use walnuts or pine nuts.

bambara-groundnut-3The following photo essay provides a bit of the flavor of this plant. For more on the bambara groundnut, also called a “bean,” see the chapter from Lost Crops of Africa, vol. II, “Vegetables.”

Ibn Battuta, a traveler from what is now Morocco, wrote in 1352 that the people in Iwalatan dug “from the ground a crop like beans” and that they fried these beans with the taste of peas. In Malawi, according to Jessica Harris in The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent, “only those who have lost a child may ‘bury’ or plant them.” Anyone can sow them, however.

Names (from Lost Crops) include: Bambarra, pois Souterrain, vanzon;  Portuguese:  mandubi d’Angola (Brazil);  Sierra Leone:  agbaroro (in Creole);  Ghana:  aboboi, akyii;  Nigeria:  epi roro, guijiya, gujuya, okboli ede;  Hausa:  juijiya;  Ibo:  okpa otuanya; Yoruba:  epi roui;  Sudan:  ful abungawi;  Central Africa:  njogo bean;   Kenya:  njugu mawe;  Zambia:  juga bean, ntoyo;  Malawi: nzama, njama;  Zimbabwe: nlubu, nyimo, jugo bean;  Madagascar: pistache Malagache, voanjobory;  Ndebele: indlubu, ditloo;   Shona: nyimo;  Swahili: njugu, njugu mawe;  Tsonga:  kochane, nyume, ndlowu;  Venda: nduhu, nwa, tzidzimba;  Xhosa: jugo;  Zulu:  indlubu;  siSwati (Swaziland):  tindlubu.

The range of the groundnut in Africa.
The range of the groundnut in Africa.
Growing groundnuts ready for harvest.
Growing groundnuts ready for harvest.
Harvesting groundnuts.
Harvesting groundnuts.

Selling groundnuts.
Shelling groundnuts.
Upclose view of bambara groundnuts.
Up-close view of bambara groundnuts.
Groundnut and Chicken Soup (Photo credit: John Tolva)
Groundnut and Chicken Soup (Photo credit: John Tolva)

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