Monday, September 09, 2013

Around the House, kpakpo shito and water leaf

Fall is now arriving in the US. Nights are getting colder, yet the warm memories of a month in Ghana during June and July are still strong.

Here are a few photos from my time there. On the right and below are photos of the kpakpo shito bushes planted in our yard in Baatsona (near Tema). Kpakpo shito (shito means "pepper" in Ga) is my favorite pepper from Ghana. I've tried unsuccessfully to locate seeds in the U.S., with several local organic farmers willing to grow them for me.

If anyone knows how to legally import them from Ghana, please let me know. Kpakpo shito has a wonderful, almost sweet fragrance, along with a spicy heat. I didn't have to buy peppers at all the 4 weeks I was in Ghana! I wait for them to turn red before cooking with them, either whole and "popped" between my fingers, or seeded and sliced.

My son Yaw Dankwa also planted some greens he brought from Nigeria, called "water leaf" or what sounded like "boca-boca" in Ghana. They have small purple flowers. He mentioned that they can be cooked like cocoyam leaves (nkontomire), and that in Nigeria people sometimes also just cut the leaves up and add them to food. I never had a chance to cook some this trip, but did check in with the knowledgeable Ozoz Sokoh, of Kitchen Butterfly fame, who confirmed that water leaf  is ". . . an aggressive plant and I'm less than happy with it at the moment as it overtakes every thing with its self propagation. Worse than mint! . . . But we use it in soups, with other greens (pumpkin leaves and another veggie we call 'green'), with ground melon, stirred into tomato sauces aka stew." She also provided a link for more information, including its history and scientific family and name, Portulacaceae, Talinum fruticosum (T. triangulare).  Apparently the leaves are  loaded with vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, and are grown in many tropical areas of the world besides West Africa.
Thank you again, Ozoz.


Nky Lily Lete said...

I see the water leaves. Wish I could get some here in Spain.We use it for a lot of recipes in Nigeria .It is great in soups :)

MyCoCreations said...

I recently got my first look and taste of fresh water leaves and I'm hooked. I'm now back in the US and looking to find some seeds so I can grow too. They are so pretty and healthy!

Fran said...

Let me know when you locate them. I do hear the plants are very easy to grow.

Oakwolf said...

You ask about Kpakpo Shito seeds in the US. I happened here because I was searching for information on that plant after finding it in the North Garden of the Como Conservatory in St. Paul, MN. I wonder if you could get them to send you a few seeds; their plant is hanging heavy with fruit right now. I'm not suggesting breaking their house rules, but if you were nearby, you could probably arrange to get some seeds just by visiting.... ;)

Fran said...

"Oakwolf" (interesting name) I'll bet there's a story behind that name: Thank you for the tip. I've left a message at the conservatory to see if someone can help me out (unfortunately, I'm in Pennsylvania, not MN).

IromakanSSS said...

Hello Fran:

I just want to say that I bought your cookbook and my honey is really happy. I'm Japanese and he's Ghanaian, you really inspired me to cook! I've been searching for the Kpakpo seeds as well for a few months. At first I thought they were Petite Belle / capsicum chinense, I unfortunately wasted money through Amazon as they were just orange Habanero. Did you happen to find any online that can be purchased? The only other idea I can think of is to have someone mail me some seed from Ghana but i don't know if that is allowed. In any case, I'll keep searching...I'm keen on using them for light soup and shito... I use Habanero and it turns out fine but I think it would be even better with Kpakpo. Thank you so much again for your cookbook. I'm looking forward to visiting Ghana in the near future.


Jennifer Nakamori

Fran said...

Thank you for writing. So glad you’re finding the cookbook helpful! RE kpakpo shito. I may have mentioned I received some supposedly kpakpo shito seeds from Ghana but they are really just habaneros. I have a colleague who told me it isn’t too complicated to get a small seed import license from the USDA. I still haven’t looked into it yet, but may be able to before my next trip to Ghana. I’ll keep you in the loop. You’re right: it’s illegal to just bring them into the U.S. because they might bring in diseases. However, occasionally you can get them at West African markets in New York or Washington. If I ever see any for sale (for cooking), I plan to grab them and harvest the seeds.

All the best.