Okazi leaves are hard unique vegetables botanically known as Gnetum Africanum. They are found and massively grown in some parts of Nigerian Eastern States and some parts of Cameroon. But virtually every food market in the country can boost of this vegetables.
This is because these vegetables apart from from being enriched with rich nutrients, cannot be ignored when preparing the lovely Efik – Afang soups and of course some varieties of Eastern Egusi soups and Okazi or Ukazi soups.
Taking a close look at the leaves, you will notice that these leaves look glossy and almost like orange leaves but with no specific smell or aroma .
I remember a few years back, when we travelled to the villiage, Ameke Abiriba to spend some days with my family, one of my aunt used okazi leaves to prepare Ugba Salad to entertain us. That was my first time of tasting this leaves as Ugba and twas quite delicious!
Interesting facts about okazi leaves
- Okazi leaves are also known as afang leaves.
- Botanically known as Gnetum africanum, these leaves are climbing leafy vegetables that belongs to the family of Gnetaceae.
- Okazi are greenish climbing plant that are not only common in Nigeria but other tropical regions like Congo, Gabon, Angola, Asia and even South America.
- The two main species of theses leaves are however found in Africa and they are Gnetum buchholzianum and Gnetum africanum.
- These vines are non-seasonal perennial plant that can grow as new shoots from cut stems or as rhizomes.
- The okazi leaves are usually difficult to cut, thus your knife must be very sharp when cutting these leaves.
- Due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties of Gnetum africanum, the leaves can be used as a remedy for certain ailments and diseases.
- Western world usually refer to okazi leaves as wild spinach or wild vegetable.
- Various African countries have divers names for these leaves – in Congo the leaves are known as fumbua, KoKo while the Cameroonians call it okok, m’fumbua, or fumbua, eru.
- The edible leaves are usually cut into small strips that are used for different cuisines and recipes.
- These leaves are not usually planted but they normally grow as forest vines while the leaves are gathered as forest vegetables for culinary purposes.
- Ukazi leaves are said to be excellent sources of aspartic acid, dietary fibre, cysleine, protein, vitamins, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganesse, potassium, copper, glutamic acid, leucine and essential amino acids that are required by the body.
- The relatively high protein content of G. africanum suggest why this plants contains high amount of essential acids that can act as alternative energy source especially when the carbohydrate metabolism is damaged due to glucogenesis.
- Gnetum africanum stem can be eaten raw for reducing childbirth pain as well as menstrual pain.
- Apart from the leaves, the okazi tuber and seeds can be cooked and eaten as food.
- In the same vein, researchers have claimed that the okazi vines contain high level of iodine and they can serve as antidote for poisons.
Well, enough of all these grammar, let’s visit the kitchen! Preparing Okazi soup is not difficult at all , just follow the guideline below and enjoy this meal for the weekend!
Okazi soup is not Afang soup! This is because Achi is added to it. It is a South Eastern Soup that people from Imo, Abia, Eboyin and some other South Eastern States relish a great deal!
Recipe for 4 servings:
1 kilogram assorted meat
2 bunches of okazi leaves (thinly shredded)
1 onion, chopped
4 dried mangala fish
4 dry cameroun pepper (ground)
2 tablespoons ground crayfish
1 large stock fish
2 cooking spoons of palm oil
3 tablespoons of ground achi or ukpo
… the shredded okazi leaves
- Clean the dried fish break into large chunks and use hot water to wash off the dirt.
- Pour into a sizeable pot and set on fire. Do likewise with the stocks fish. Add to the pot, cover and bring to boil.
- Wash the meat, add to pot, add some salt, onion and seasonings to taste. Cook until the meat is quite tender while the fishes are soft.
- Make sure the salt and seasonings are adequate.
- Add the palm oil, crayfish, pepper, cover and cook until well mixed.
- Add the achi or ukpo and leave for another 10 minutes. Add the shredded and washed okazi leaves.
- Simmer for another two minutes, remove from heat and serve alongside a hot plate of any swallow.