The Nigeria Palm Oil Tree Of Wisdom, Wealth, And Wellbeing!

The production of palm oil in Nigeria is the largest among African countries which serve as a means of livelihood for many rural families and is part of the farming culture of millions of people in the country until recently Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of palm oil but due to many factors; it has become increasingly difficult for Nigeria to cope with the growth of global demands for palm oil and hence losing their position, consequently leading to Nigeria importing palm oil as of today. Palm oil is found on the shelves of every market stalls; lined up in refilled bottles, gallons, and jars, of different sizes, weights, and qualities. Palm oil is extremely versatile and it is used to manufacture products from lipsticks to nail polish, for pastry recipes, animal feeds, biofuel in many countries of the world. The Yoruba of western and the Igbo of southern Nigeria refers to and called the palm oil tree the “tree of life” because of their so many proverbs and sayings surrounding the magnificent tree of wisdom; one very important thing to note about the palm tree is that one can hardly find a single household in Nigeria that is NOT making use of its products, there is NOT a single pot of meal that the palm oil has NOT greased. Although palm oil healthiness has been highly controversial, it stills finds its place in many a Nigeria pots: Which is not to be? Red palm oil or black palm kernel oil is a must in traditional cuisines, cosmetics, and customary rites; remember also the absolutely important palm wine that is tapped from the sap of the palm tree known as the “Nkwu Enu” by the Igbo, “Emu” for the Yoruba and the Hausa called it “Burkutu or giyar Ichen Man’ja”. The palm tree oil fruits can produce two popularly used oils; the red palm oil is extracted from the fresh fruits and the palm kernel oil is extracted from the nuts, both oils are saturated fat which goes semisolid at room temperature, the more reason to why it is considered not heart-healthy.

A popular saying in Nigeria is “Proverbs Are The Palm Oil With Which Words Are Eaten”; meaning that just as the proverbs enhance the flavor of any conversation, the palm oil is just as important in the cultural cuisines of every Nigerian used in cooking, health remedies, mythical beliefs, and religious sacrifices. With the following recipes, you CAN be the judge of the place of PALM OIL in Nigerian Recipes AND maybe yours too by trying any of the dishes below. Get the saucepan sizzling:-

The Red Palm Oil:- It is one of the most widely produced and used edible fats in the world, hardly will one find a home in Nigeria without it. Red palm oil is also one of the most popular and easy to get cooking oil used for cooking in every home all over Nigeria. It is known as “epo pupa” in Yoruba, the Hausa of northern Nigeria called it “jar mai or man ja” and the Igbo called it “Nkwu”. The red palm oil is extracted from the ripe fruit of the palm oil tree, it has a bright red to orange color. Palm Oil is semi-solid at room temperature but can be processed into a liquid cooking oil; palm oil is considered by many to be better than high-transfat shortenings and a better choice than butter, but the best choice is the olive oil that is naturally liquid at room temperature.

Homemade Red Palm Oil:- Almost all homes in Nigeria use palm oil for either cooking or other household uses, a beautiful rich edible oil, bright red to yellow extracted from the palm fruits. The outer red fleshy fruits are the source of palm oil while the inner edible kernel nut is the source of palm kernel oil, the crude palm fruit pulp is used in preparing the popular Igbo delicacies “Banga Soup” and recipes using palm oil includes the following such as Akara “Ale’po pupa”, and “olele elemi meje” are the bean cakes in Yoruba, steamed and fried in palm oil. A special delicacy of the Yoruba is called “A’dunn” which is beans and corn flour cooked and fried in palm oil, “ekuru” is the steamed beans pudding serve with “obe ata” by crumbling it in the palm oil sauce. Roasted yam and red palm oil are a meal eaten by most Nigerians, especially at the farms; the Igbos special New Yam Festival known as the “Iri-ji” simply is to celebrate “eating new yam” which is called “iri ji ohuu” with roasted yam on charcoal that is serve with palm oil sauce or for others a drizzle of the unrefined palm oil all over the roasted yam eaten with salt and ground chili pepper. The Yoruba traditional rites for birthing twins are celebrated by cooking a dish of beans and palm oil for guests and the twins as a way to please the gods of the land. 
The healthiness of palm oil is highly controversial; but believed to be rich in sterols, Vitamin E, antioxidants, and many more vital nutrients. The reddish-orange color oil is used for various dishes like soups, stews, African salad, use in almost all the recipes using beans, also used in margarine and cheap butter. This nutrient-rich oil has a strong and distinct flavor, with a carrot-like taste, a beautifully rich texture that makes it great and healthy for many delicious dishes.

How To Make Red Palm Oil At Home:- 

Recipe Ingredients: The fleshy palm oil fruits, water, sieve, mortar, and pestle to pound the fleshy fruits to extract the oil.

Recipe Steps:- Wash the red palm oil fruits and put them in a deep pot then add water and bring to boil, cook until the palm nut fruits are softened and cracked open.
Place in a wooden mortar and pound the tender fruits until the juicy palm oil is oozing out.
Place the palm oil pulp in a pot, add water to it and boil until the oil comes up and rises to the top. The oil will separate and float on the top of the boiling pulp. Gently scoop out the palm oil into a bowl from the top of the boiling liquid.
Strain and remove particles and fiber, then store in refilled bottles for use in other recipes.
The red palm oil is further processed and refined after it has been bleached, degummed, and deodorized which strips the red palm oil off its original nutrients of carotenoids. The filtration and bleaching remove the color and flavor to produce a different deodorized palm oil, changing its original form to a popular golden color cooking vegetable oil.

The Palm Kernel Oil:- It is an edible plant oil extracted from the palm kernel, which is the seed found inside the palm fruit. The oil has a strong nutty scent and taste; most tribes in northern Nigeria relish cooking with it. Palm kernel oil is black and it is called “adin dudu” in Yoruba, popularly called “mai alaidi” by the Hausa of northern Nigeria, and it is called “eli aki” by the Igbo; used for centuries to treat infections, prevent diseases, and as an excellent beauty product for glorious hair and healthy smooth skin. The white center is the kernel nut which is crushed to extract the palm kernel oil called in Yoruba “A’kuro” and “kwaa’ra” in Hausa. Cracking the kernel nuts requires strength but some people with very strong teeth are known to crack the nuts and chew them.

How To Make Palm Kernel Oil At Home:-

The Recipe Ingredients:- Palm kernel nuts, Water, Sieve, And Airtight Jar.

The Recipe Steps:- Shell the nuts and clean the palm kernel; separate the kernel shells from the nuts and all forms of impurities, such as stones, shell pieces, bottles, and metallic debris.
Crush the hard nuts into pieces; pound the nuts or ground to paste. Place the crushed nuts in a dry pan, add water, and place on heat to cook until the heated paste release the palm kernel oil. Extract the oil by scooping or strain using a perforated sieve. Store in refilled bottles or jars.

The second method of extracting the Palm Kernel Oil is to crack and shell the nuts. Then crush the shelled nuts, put onto a dry pan, and gently dry roast on medium heat; stirring constantly until oil starts to separate from the kernel, kernel oil will fry it and the more the oil is released the darker the oil becomes, after extraction the oil is black. Strain the oil twice with a fine perforated sieve or mesh and store in bottles or jars. The palm kernel oil is used in soaps, creams, candles, hair, and body creams.

Palm Oil Stews, Sauces, Soups:-
A hot and spicy recipe, the palm oil-based pepper stew or sauce is for the yoruba “obe ata” Hausa is “miyan degedege or jar miya”. The Nigerian stews, sauces, and soups depend on one’s taste, choices of the ingredients, methods, and recipes; the resulting gravy also depends on the duration of cooking. The taste of the palm oil soups, sauces, and stews cooked with fish is different from the meat; the longer the frying, the thicker the gravy becomes, and the tastier the flavor giving a distinct aroma. The palm oil stew and sauce originated from the Yoruba, and two methods are used in preparation either the use of the raw unrefined palm oil or the smoky bleached palm oil is used for the stew. The unbleached palm oil is best for soups dishes to serve with vegetables and swallows. The distinct aroma of onions frying in smoky palm oil carries far and wide all through the neighborhood and the addition of the locust beans known in Hausa as “dawadawa” is just the needed secret ingredient to shoot the aroma over the fence; and if the stew is well stir-fried it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. The stews and sauces taste amazing but serve with different meals, for the red palm oil stew “obe ata” is eaten and serve with “okro, gbegiri or ewedu soups” which is eaten with any swallow of choice like amala, fufu, eba, pounded yam or semovita. The bleached palm oil stew is eaten with rice, beans, yam, or any other food choices.

Recipe Ingredients:-
Beef, chicken, or fish.
Blended vegetables paste consisting of tomatoes, bell pepper, scotch bonnets, and onions.
Seasoning cubes and salt to taste.
Onion slices for more flavor and aroma.
Palm oil.
Boiled eggs for garnishing.

Recipe steps:-
The fresh vegetables are wash and the seeds removed (optional) of the red bell pepper, tomatoes, scotch bonnets, add chopped onions, and blended all together to get a thick paste that forms the stew base.

Wash and cut the meat of choice into pieces, then place in a pot with onion slices, salt to taste, and seasoning cubes. Add just enough water to cook meat until tender.

The magic step starts here for the bleached palm oil; place a dry deep pan on low heat add in palm oil and carefully heat up the oil until smoky and color changes to golden yellow, add in the onion slices; a delicious and flavorful aroma will sizzle out. Fry the onion until crispy, add the blended pepper combo paste, and stir-fry until all liquid is evaporated.

The red palm oil stew is different because instead of bleaching the oil, all that is required in this method is just heat up to sizzle and lightly fry the onions to remove the raw palm oil taste, and still the oil retains its beautiful red color and nutrients. If prefer fry the meat in the heated oil for a crispy bite.

Saute the chopped onions, and add the pepper paste, stir-fry as for the above method. Add the meat stock, stir in well, and cover the pot, simmer the stew on low heat. Taste for salt and seasoning cubes, add or adjust according to taste.

Once the liquid content is gone down and stew gravy thickens with the palm oil glistening on top then add fried meat, fish, or both. Gently fold in and stir to coat the meat or fish. Cover and simmer on low heat for the meats or fish to absorb the flavor of the stew. Then remove from heat, garnish with boiled eggs to serve.
Serve over rice, beans, or both, fried plantain or yam, or any other food choices.

The Second Method Of Stew or Sauce:-
Recipe Ingredients:
The meat of choice, chicken, beef, fish (fresh or smoked), ram or goat meat.
Tomatoes, bell pepper, scotch bonnets, and onions blend all to a paste.
Palm oil, diced onions, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste.
Locust beans are “dawadawa” in Hausa, “iru” in Yoruba, and “okpei” called by the Igbo.

Recipe Steps:-
The quantity of the meat of choice is washed, cut into stew pieces, place into a pot, add onions slices, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste, add enough water to cook meat. Boil the blended pepper paste in a separate pot, until all water is evaporated and the raw aroma of pepper is gone. Pour a scoop of palm oil in a dry saucepan, just heat up a little, add chopped onions, and fry the meat to avoid the meat getting too tender and disintegrating in the stew. Remove the meat and add the locust beans to fry a bit, add the boiled pepper paste, meat stock, salt, and seasoning cubes to taste. Stir-fry until palm oil separates from the stew. Add fried meat and combine well to absorb stew flavor. Simmer on low heat, remove and serve.
Serve with the following soups, ewedu, okro, gbegiri, going down well with swallows of Amala which is the Yoruba yam flour that is cooked into a swallow, eba is prepared from cooking cassava flakes called garri into a meal ball, pounded yam, semovita, or any other swallow of choices.

Beans Porridge A One-Pot Meal:- A wholesome and fiber-filled, deliciously perfect vegan meal serve with soaked Garri or sprinkle and mix in Garri which is a cassava flake, eaten or serve with bread slices just like a spread, serve with ogi or pap, a fermented corn starch porridge-like custard, eaten with “eko” which is the Yoruba starch meal swallow, serve as a side dish with boiled yams, potatoes or rice.
The red-brown or black-eyed beans are the best to use for this recipe; the best way to cook beans is by adding the unrefined palm oil and a lot of onions slices, a healthy super tasty meal.

Recipe Ingredients:-
Black-eyed beans.
Palm oil.
Tomatoes, bell pepper known as “tatasai” in Hausa, scotch bonnets, and purple onions.
Salt and seasoning cubes.

Recipe Steps:-
There are two ways to cook beans either by soaking in cool water for several hours or placing a pot on low heat. Rinse beans and place in the pot, slowly bring to boil, soaking as it cooks to reduce the long time it takes to cook the beans.
Midway through the cooking of the beans, either chop or blend the tomatoes, bell pepper, scotch bonnets, and onions, then add to the boiling beans. While still cooking on low low heat, add the red palm oil, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste. Stir all ingredients together, reduce heat then cover, and allow to soak up all liquid to soften. Remove from the heat and serve with any side dish as mentioned above. The addition of meat, fish, or crayfish is optional but it enhances the flavor and taste.
The second method is to boil the beans until cooked with salt to taste and serve it with palm oil sauce or stew known as “obe ata” by the Yoruba and the “miyar degedege” by the Hausa of northern Nigeria.

Nigerian Palm Oil Jollof Rice:- The Nigerian traditional jollof rice is never complete without the addition of the red palm oil; for that beautiful orange-red color and a distinctly tasteful aroma and flavor. The addition of local spices makes it an absolutely yummy spicy delight, seen on every celebration menu, a must-served at parties and “Owanbe” events. Honestly, the original jollof rice is cooked with very few ingredients of rice, palm oil, pepper, onions, locust beans with a traditional touch making it the most delicious meal but with today’s style of recipes, more ingredients are added to suit the rich lifestyle and tastebuds of the new world incorporating meat, fish and assorted continental spices to upgrade the Nigerian jollof rice.

Recipe Ingredients:-
Rice is shinkafa in Hausa and the Yoruba is eresi.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, scotch bonnets, and onions.
Red palm oil.
Meat, Smoked Fish, or crayfish.
Locust beans are the Hausa dawadawa.
Seasoning cubes and salt to taste.

Recipe Steps:-
The authentic way to prepare Nigeria jollof rice is to add the unrefined red palm oil directly to the boiling rice, but others prefer bleaching it but there is nothing that tastes like the red palm oil and onions frying; wow so inviting.
Wash and parboil the rice, strain rice water, and rinse severally to reduce the starch.
Wash, cut into pieces and spiced up meat. Place in a clean pot with onions, add enough water to boil on medium heat.
Heat up the palm oil and add onion slices, the blended pepper, stir-fry for some minutes, then add the locust beans, ground crayfish, smoked fish, meat, and broth, add more water just enough to cook, and soften the rice. As soon as it boils add spices, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste. Stir all ingredients to combine and lastly add the parboiled rice, mix in well to cover the rice with stock. Reduce heat to low and simmer jollof rice until fluffy soft and all water is evaporated. Check and if satisfy remove from the heat and serve with any side dish of choice.

Palm Oil Health Benefits And Adverse Effects:- The unrefined palm oil has a reddish hue that is the best type of oil that is rich in beneficial carotenoids and antioxidants; including at least two tablespoons in daily diet has powerful health benefits, aids to reduce cholesterol levels, helps to slow the progression of heart disease. A healthy lifestyle and including heart-healthy fats like the red palm oil in the diet with getting enough exercise, eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, and also keeping stress levels in check help immensely to reverse and also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Palm oil is loaded with tocotrienols a Vitamin E that has potent antioxidant properties which can help support healthy brain function, slow dementia to enhancing cognition, and boosting brain health, also enhances Vitamin A status, reduces oxidative stress, amongst other benefits excellently improves skin and hair health.

Red palm oil with its many health benefits also has some side effects and ethical concerns that must NOT be ignored such as the myths about palm oil being an antidote for poison is a popular Nigeria cultural belief called “eero or Aporo” by Yoruba of western Nigeria; the palm oil myths by Nigerian mothers has been around for as long as the palm oil itself. In Nigeria, red palm oil is the most commonly used as an antidote to all poisonings which is extremely dangerous believing that it will neutralize the ingested poison or provoke vomiting so the child can get the poison out of the system. Parents MUST change their mindset on holding tight to the cultural beliefs of using palm oil as an antidote from the olden days; It is the most dangerous myth ever, so stop the use of palm oil as a “cure-all” for any ingestion of poison to induce vomiting or neutralize it. Seek Medical Attention, in cases of poison.
It is advisable to use palm oil in moderation, use it in combination with other healthy fats and organic food choices in daily diet; always best to use unrefined and cold-pressed palm oil to avoid any adverse health effects.

The Palm Oil Sustainability:- Palm oil requires about 10 times less land than other oil-producing crops and it is entirely GM-Free. It is a highly productive crop that is capable of yielding more oil from less land than any other vegetable oil in existence; one oil palm tree will produce ongoing fruits for up to 30 years deeming the crop as high-yielding and sustainable. Palm oil is also used to manufacture biofuel mostly refer to as the green fuel option for motor vehicles, shipping, and aircraft fuel. The palm kernel cake is a by-product of palm kernel oil which is a protein feed used for fattening cattle and livestock. The dependence on palm oil as the miracle ingredients in everything from cuisine to cosmetics has devastating environmental consequences: The palm oil sector needs to mechanize and improve the traditional manual procedures of palm oil extractions and also address issues of labor, forest loss due to deforestation, endangered species, the greenhouse gas emissions which all contribute to climate change; to invest in sustainable landscape initiatives as a path towards a sustainable palm oil that is free of deforestation and destruction of the natural ecosystem!