By S. Olanrewaju Disu
There is a peculiar condiment on sale all-year round in Lagos Area Markets. It is called 'Iru" by indigenous Yoruba populace in the South Western region of Nigeria. The English name is "African Locust Bean". The scientific name is 'Parkia biglobosa, Family Leguminosae: Mimosoideae" while the Hausa speaking inhabitants of the area call it "Daddawa".
'Iru" - the "African Locust Bean" is a product of a deciduous tree that grows as tall as twenty metres, with large fruit pods. The fruit pods contains a row of black seeds. The seeds are obtained from the pod simply by washing away the surrounding meal. To obtain the kernel, it is usual to boil the seeds for twenty-four hours (to soften the testa) or to roast them. Thereafter, it is pounded and washed several times to remove the broken shell;they are then boiled again to form a paste and then set aside for two or three days to ferment. The product is a blackish itemwith a pungent smell. It is a favourite food in the clime as well as a seasoning - something very much in use to enhance the flavour of our soup. The pungent smell is destroyed by frying or roasting, which also removes any toxic substances which might be present.
Virtually all vegetable based soups are cooked with the "African Locust Bean" - "Iru" in local parlance !Soups made with "Iru" are usually eaten with cereals. This condiments is readily digested; indeed, its reported to have been used in Europe as a diebetic food. It keeps very well and it is usually made up into small cakes for longer keeping.
A. Freshly made "African Locust Beans" - "Iru"
B. Cakes of the "African Locust Bean" on sale at the "Ikotun Market" in Lagos State