Africa is often portrayed as a starving continent, which is ignoring the fact that centuries before colonizers began depleting the region of its resources, Africans had advanced food systems in place. When enslaved Africans were taken to the Americas, they brought their culinary wisdom with them, forever changing the way we cook and consume food.
Since the 17th century, When Africans were forced into slavery in the New world, they and their descendants have had a round impact on what Americas grow and eat. Watermelon, Okra, Yams, and some peppers are all indigenous in Africa.
Here are seven foods that originated in Africa that remain popular today:
It’s likely that the first rice seeds used for farming were imported directly from the island of Madagascar in 1685. It’s believed that enslaved West Africans were responsible for providing the expertise needed to successfully cultivate it and by 1750, slave owners in the Carolinas were farming large quantities of rice similarly to how it had been grown in Africa.
There are two “Families” of rice in the world. One of them is from Asia and the other from Africa. The African rice, whose scientific name is coryza glaberrima, is the one that arrived in the Americas on the slave ships.
Most people associate coffee with Central and South America, but Ethiopia is actually the birthplace of the world’s principal coffee. The word coffee is thought to stem from the word “kaffa” which is a former province in southwestern Ethiopia. When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, Ethiopians already had an in-depth understanding of various ways to roast coffee beans, extract flavors, and brew coffee. Coffee house culture had a stronghold throughout East Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, causing Europeans to dismiss it as a Muslim trend.
Okra originated in Ethiopia and is still cultivated in present-day Ethiopia as well as Eritrea and parts of Sudan and was used in a variety of ways. The seeds were often prepared as a coffee substitute and the leaves were used medicinally as a softening ingredient for poultices. The word “gumbo” actually derives from a West African word that means okra, which used to be one of the main ingredients in the Southern stew. Okra is extremely popular in New Orleans
Food historians are mixed on the origins of watermelon, but some believe that it’s the ancestor of a bitter melon that spread from Sudan to Egypt during the second millennium. Ancient Egyptians cultivated the fruit and buried it in pharaohs’ tombs to provide hydration for their crossing into the afterlife. Watermelon came to America during the trans-Atlantic slave trade
Black-eyed peas also provided sustenance on slave ships. According to some sources, black-eyed peas reached Florida around 1700, North Carolina by the 1730s, and became a common table food in Virginia after the American Revolution. The high-protein bean grows quickly and suppresses weeds, making them a popular food for livestock (hence the nickname “cowpeas”). Nowadays, black-eyed peas represent a key ingredient in “Hoppin John,” a Southern dish made on the New Year that is thought to bring good luck.
Yams were the primary food for enslaved Africans aboard slave ships, with one slave merchant noting that “a ship that takes in 500 slaves, must provide above 100,000 yams.” After these ships docked on American shores, yams remained a popular food, with sweet potato pie and roasted yams becoming Southern staples.
Maluvu, or well-known as palm wine was produced throughout Africa from sap or vice collected from palm trees. African descendants continued to make it in savannah, Georgia: in South Carolina the palmetto is the source. Materials called palm canbbage or Palmetto cabbage is taken from the centre of the tree and either cooked or fermented for wine
Jambalaya, which was called Bantu tshimbolebole in the African Language is a dish of tender, cooked corn. African influenced dish that is quite similar to gumbo. The dish is still popular in many parts of New Orleans . it was brought to Louisiana by Africans from the Kongo