It was sunny day, in a beautiful village called Odobaji, Olamaboro LGA in kogi state. As usual I was in charge of photography of a client’s traditional marriage ceremony, I was hungry, so I requested for food. The attendant enquired “what will you like to eat”, then I asked for Rice and beef stew. In less than 5 minutes here comes my meal, I collected the food with a bottle of water. Immediately I gulped in the first spoon, I notice a unique and distinct taste that I have never felt in any tomato stew before.
I enquire from the attendant who gave me the food. I asked “my guy please what did you use in preparing this tomato stew” he said the normal ingredient of cos. I told him that I felt a distinctly unique taste in the food he gave me. He then said “okpehe was used in preparing the food”.
Okpehe is one of the most common food condiments in Nigeria and many countries of West Africa. Okpehe is a flavouring condiment most popular in the middle belt of Nigeria. It is produced from Prosopis Africana, which is a leguminous oil seed, fermented in most part of Benue, Kogi and part of Niger state.
Food is an integral part of every ceremony in Nigeria and Africa at large. Tradition African food condiments and natural seasonings are now being encouraged because of their health benefits. Most caterers and wedding vendors now include traditional food condiments like iru, dadawa, ogiri and Okpehe into their cooking.
Okpehe is characterized by a strong smell, it’s also mashed and sticky browned. 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 flavour of food from plain to a mouth-puckering sourness. 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 gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases (Reid et al., 2001a, b).
PROCEDURE USED IN PREPARING OKPEHE
Okpehe as a natural seasoning and food condiments, is produced from the seed of a leguminous plant called Prosopis Africana. When these seeds are harvested, it is removed from the housing shell, blown and place on fire to boil for 3hours, allow to cool then dehaull the seed, use hand in peeling the seed to remove seed coats. Put them back to the pot place on fire allow to boil for 5 hours. Remove from the pot, drain out the water and put them in a basket, cover it with plantain leaves allow to stay for 3 – 4days for fermentation to take place. Ground the seed and mold them into desired shape and finally sun dry.
Flow chart for preparation of Okpehe
Prosopis Africana seeds. ↓
Boil for 3 hours in an intense heat ↓
Dehaull by pressing with fingertips ↓
Wash seed, coats removed ↓
Boil for 5 hours ↓
Wrap in plantain leave and place in a basket ↓
Ferment for 3 days ↓