Not because I am an African but as a lover of great food, I will say that Okpehe is one of the best food condiments for adding flavors to cooking. It is a condiment derived from the fermentation of Prosopis Africana seeds found in Benue, Kogi, and parts of Niger state.
Let me give you a little insight into how I came across this tasty food condiment, a few years ago.
It was a sunny day, in a beautiful village called Odobaji in Olamaboro LGA, Kogi state. As usual, I was in charge of a client’s traditional marriage ceremony. After the whole day of stress, hunger set in then I requested for food.
The attendant enquired “what will you like to eat”, I asked for Rice and beef stew. In about 5 minutes the lady brought my meal, I collected the food and a bottle of water.
As I gulp a few spoons of the food into my mouth, I notice a unique and a distinct taste that I have never felt in any tomato source ever before.
I enquire from the attendant that served me the food. I asked “please what you used in preparing this tomato stew,” she said the normal ingredient of cos.
I told her that I felt a distinctly unique taste in the food she gave me. “Oh that is okpehe she said”, we used it in preparing the food.
Okpehe is one of the most common food condiments in Nigeria and many other countries in West Africa. Okpehe is a flavoring condiment made popular by the middle belt region of Nigeria.
1. Health Benefit of Okpehe as Food Condiment
Food is an integral part of every wedding ceremony in Africa. Traditional food condiment is a natural seasoning which experts now encouraged people to consume more, this is it because of their health benefits.
Most caterers and wedding vendors now include traditional food condiments into their cooking, an example of such are iru, dadawa, and ogiri.
Okpehe is characterized by a strong smell, mashed and sticky browned appearance. Several species of bacteria especially Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, and Micrococcus spp were found to be the most actively involved organisms in the production of Okpehe.
Fermented foods like Okpehe, iru, dadawa, etc., enjoyed across the globe, conveys health benefits through lactic acid fermentation.
This process can transform the flavor of food from plain to a mouth-watering dish. Studies have shown that micro-organism found in Okpehe could colonize the vagina, kill viruses, and reduce the risk of infections, including bacterial vaginosis.
It also reduces the occurrence of Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases (Reid et al., 2001a, b).
2. Okpehe Recipe – How it is made
Okpehe as a natural seasoning and food condiments, it is made from the seed of a leguminous plant called Prosopis Africana.
When these seeds are harvested, it is removed from the out brown shell, then place on fire to boil for 3 hours; it is allow cooling before the dark coat of the seeds are peeled off.
The seeds are transferred back to the pot, place on the heat and allow to boil for 5 hours.
The water is drained out and the seeds are emptied into a basket, covered with plantain leaves allow to stay for 3 – 4days to ferment.
The seeds are Ground and molded into the desired shape and there are finally placed under the to dry.
Flow Chart for Preparation of Opkehe – Africa’s Best Food Condiment
Prosopis Africana seeds.
Boil for 3 hours in an intense heat
Remove the skin/outer coats by pressing with fingertips
Wash seed, to remove more coats
Boil for 5 hours
Wrap in plantain leave and place in a basket
Ferment for 3 days
Grind, mold, and sundry
Diagram of the production process of Okpehe