Friday, 18 March 2011


By S. Olanrewaju Disu

An important exotic food item commonly sold in major markets in Lagos Area is the stockfish. The stockfish is simply a type of fish (e.g. cod, hadlock, or hake) that is dried hard in the open air without salt. These types of fishes are commonly caught in Norwegian waters, very far away from our shores!

Stockfish trading is very thriving in the whole of southern Nigeria. This exotic delicacy is consumed more by people of south-eastern origin-i.e the Ibo's, than any other ethnic group in the state. Since there is a very large concentration of Ibo - speaking people in Lagos State, the stock-fish business is very thriving here, too.
Various types of vegetable-based soups are cooked with stockfish in addition to other condiments. Ibo-speaking peoples are voracious consumers of fresh vegetables and stockfish. Indeed, in all major markets in Lagos State, there are sections specially reserved for dried stockfish-trading.

As earlier mentioned, stockfish are native to Norwegian waters. They are caught in large numbers by means of modern fishing trawlers. These fishes are then cleaned out and dried, ready for export to West African nations, whose people cherish eating them in their soups!

Stockfish for sale at the "Iyana-Ejigbo" Market. Directly below the stockfish are displayed some of the condiments used with the stockfish in soup-cooking.


By S. Olanrewaju Disu
Snails are available in most of the urban, sub-urban and rural markets in the whole of Lagos. They come in all shapes and sizes!

In description, a snail is an invertebrate animal with a soft, unsegmented body usually enclosed in a calcareos spiral shell. It is a slow-moving nocturnal animal. The most popular type of African snails found in our markets is scientifically known as "achatina achatina, Family achatinidae".

Like many other agricultural products in our markets, snails are abundant during the rains and sell at affordable prices, whereas during the dry season the reverse is the case. However, this situation is ameliorated by the upsurge in the establishment of large scale snail-farming both for local consumption and export, too.

The south-west part of Nigeria is situated in the tropical rain-forest. Furthermore, there are mangrove swamps. These ecosystems form natural habitats for snails. From time immemorial, there are peasant farmers who, during the rains, picked snails in very large numbers from the forests and swamps. The large sized and marketable ones are then brought down to the markets by middlemen and women.

On the other hand, younger snails are snapped up by snail-breeders who keep them in commercial quantities and nurture and sell them for huge profits. This is so because an adult snail is capable of laying about 300 eggs in a season, with about 33-34% hatching rate per clutch. Interestingly, snails are hermaphrodites and they mate for between six and ten hours!

Assumed medicinal value of snails among our people make snail-selling a profitable venture in our markets. Experts say the meat contains almost all the amino-acids that the human body needs. Also, there are other beneficial by-products, e.g., the shell, a source of gum, and its colorless blood which is useful locally for the treatment of hypertension. Above all, snails are now potential foreign-exchange earner when exporter. In other words, snail-farming is no longer just a local busines, but has now gined international acceptance!
A. Adult snails on display at a section of "Sura" Snail Market in Lagos Island. Much bigger quantities are available for export

B. A retail snail seller at the same market in Lagos Island

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Article 69: 'IRU"- African Locust Bean

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.

Illustrating Photos

A. Freshly made "African Locust Beans" - "Iru"

B. Cakes of the "African Locust Bean" on sale at the "Ikotun Market" in Lagos State

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Article 68: RAMS

By S. Olanrewaju Disu
While criss crossing the length and breadth of the Lagos Metropolis, one frequently comes across "special" markets -i.e markets that usually sell only one commodity. An example of such a market is the rams' market, the largest of which is the "Alaba-Rago" Rams market situated along the Lagos Badagry Expressway in the Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State. Another example is the Gbagada Rams market situated along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. We also have the "Nepa Rams Market situated along the Egbe Isolo Road in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area.

Rams are available in our rams' market all year round. During festivals such as yuletide and other religious festivals, there are large numbers of rams for sale at high prices: whereas during other periods opf the year, rams' prices are lower. Indeed the consumption of rams is often a pastime attached to several activities among which are the celebration of the arrival of new born children, opening of a new house, weddings, funreals, promotions e.t.c

In Lagos Metropolis area generally, rams' markets are located along highways and suburban road sides. This makes for easy evacuation of the animals after purchase. Motorists easily drive adjacently to the markets with little hinderance. Also, there are some pick up vans as well as taxi cabs readily available to help ram purchasers evacuate their purchases to their destinations in the metropolis.

Where are these rams from?They are reared in the Northern part of Nigeria, very far from Lagos climate as well as edaphic conditions prevailing in the north, in addition to very expanse of graze land, encourage the breeding of rams on a very large scale.

Full time rams' merchants purchase these animals in large quantities from ranches in the Northern parts of Nigeria and then transport them by long haulage vehicles directly to the boisterous "Alaba Rago Rams Market" in Lagos and also other big rams' markets in the metropolis on an almost daily basis. This has to be so as there are ready markets for them.
In order to counteract the almost non-availability of grazing land for these rams, merchants bringing them from the north often bring along roughages for their feeding e.g. grasses and fodder plants as well as fodder crops like groundnuts (dried stems of groundnut as well as the dried pods after the seeds have been removed from the pods)Other rams' diets include dried cowpea pods and guinea corns.
To make the story short, ram selling is a lucrative business in Lagos State Indeed.

A. Rams on sale at the "Alaba rago Rams' Market"
B. Well fed bigger rams at an exclusive corner of the "Alaba Rago Market"

C. The "Gbagada Rams' Market"

D. The "Nepa Rams' Market" in Ejigbo, Lagos State

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Article 67:"Ewe Asunwon"- the "ring worm shrub" or "craw craw plant"

By S. Olanrewaju Disu

In addition to edible and very palatable vegetable food stuffs, Lagos area markets, especially on weekly market days are usually overflowing with highly medicinal agricultural herbs, tree barks, exotic leaves and sweet scented vegetables. One of these is the leaf called "ewe asunwon". It is botanically known as "Senna alata, Family Leguminosae, Caesalpinioideae". Its various English names are "the ring worm bush", "the ring worm shrub" and "craw-craw plant". This plant is useful in diverse ways.

It is a soft wooded shrub that reaches a height of two to five metres. It has bright yellow flowers and thrives in the forest zone of tropical West Africa. Historically, it is a native of tropical America. The plant is highly decorative and worthy of cultivation because of this and its other attributes.

Traditionally, a root decoction of the plant is taken to regulate menstrual flow among our local women. Also, the decoction with rock salt and some other dry plants are taken locally three times a week on an empty stomach as an effective treatment for chronic gonorrhea. The Ibo speakig girls of Nigeria traditionally rub the roots over sacrifictions to make body markings. Sap from fresh leaves of the plant is universally recognised as a remedy for parasitic skin diseases and for many eruptive and pustular skin affections, a property which gives rise to the European and to many African names for the plant. All forms of ring worm are effectively cured by the traditional use of the watery leaf extract of the plant. Furthermore, the leaves of this plant are strongly purgative. The dried leaf is used as an arbortifacient. On the other hand, it is used to expedite child birth!

The leaves of the "Senna alata" (the ring worm shrub) or (the craw craw shrub) on sale at the Agege Market in Lagos State

Article 66: SORGHUM BICOLOR "Poroporo"

By S. Olanrewaju Disu

In Lagos area market, there are found some uncommon agricultural products. An example of such is the "sorghum bicolor", which the indigenous residents in Lagos Metropolitan Area call "poroporo". The botanical name is "Sorghum bicolor, Family Gramineae". It is also known as "grain sorghum" or "great millets"

The "sorghum bicolor" alias "poroporo" is an annual or perennial grass with stout culms and grows up to four meters or even more in height. This product is a cereal that grows very well in dry areas, e.g. the Northern parts of Nigeria where there is relatively low rainfall.

Up North, it is cultivated chiefly for its grain. Also, the stems are commonly used to make a sort of mat for covering door ways. Furthermore, the culms are used for fencing and hut building. However, in Lagos area, its stems are of great medicinal value. Boiled stems provide red coloured liquid that is used as tonic for anemic and general lack of vitality. among the Yoruba speaking people of Nigeria, herbalists frquently use the stems to make concoction which enhances the production of blood. Indeed, this particular agricultural product provides diverse needs for diverse cultures!

Stems of the "poroporo" i.e "sorghun bicolor" on sale at Oyingbo Market in Lagos Mainland area of the metropolis

Article 65: The "Elegede" Vegetable, also known as "Squash-Gourd Melon Pumpkin and Water Squash"

By S. Olanrewaju Disu

This vegetable is usually trailing polymorphic herbaceous cultigen, and it comes out annually. Historically, it is a native of Peru, but its now dispersed throughout most of the world. I is scientifically called "Cucurbita maxima, Family Cucurbitaceae"

This vegetable's young leaves and shoots as well as flowers are used as a pot nerb. The fruit-flesh is generally boiled and eaten in pieces or put into stews and soups. The seeds of the fruit have medicinal uses, too. Here in Nigeria, freshly powdered seeds of the fruit of "elegede" vegetable are taken to expel tapeworm.

Before delivery to urban and sub-urban markets in Lagos Metropolis, the vegetable is picked up in farms and around houses, often trained against house walls, flowering and fruiting on the roof. The fruit has large gourds and perhaps the largest of the known gourds, which reports say can weigh as much as 100kgs!

Culturally, the husk serves as a container and also as domestic utensils. Some artisans carve out the big-sized gourds into single membrane drums which are used as tom toms during festivals. The "elegede" vegetable is a unique plant,indeed.


The fruits of the "Elegede" vegetable on sale at the "Isolo Road" end of the boisterious Mushin Market. The above fruits weigh between 1.0kg and 10.0kg