|Ewe Eéran The Original Food Wrap|
Nature has an answer for everything...fact! I remember many years ago, I listened to my grandparents tell how they found use for many plants and naturally occurring elements in their localities.
I listened in awe at some of the stories they told and how the "white man" changed everything.... They told of plants bearing calabashes and gourds which were used to make spoons, bottles, cups, trays and bowls. They also talked about a particular root which foamed like soap and was used to wash clothes, bathe etc. I remember requesting to be taken to the farms and be shown these things but was discouraged from going because as they say "my city appearance is not for the farm!"
I believed them totally when my grandparents told me that they never had any requirements for "modern" utensils. Everything we need is provided by nature and all you need do is just go and get it....." said my grandma. Reflecting on what my grandma said to me, I sometime wonder, what if it is still the case today where we picked all we needed from the farms, no need to purchase... there would be no need to recycle anything cause everything is biodegradable and would only be taken when required.....hhhmmmm (shame that this would not be happening again).
One of such incredible gifts of nature to Nigerian culinary (or West Africa, matter of fact) is the broad leaves locally called ewe Eéran (another variety is known as ewe gbodogi). These leaves are used to wrap all manners of food for steaming. The most popular being moin moin, eko, jogi, ekuru, ofada rice. The leaves are also used to wrap and serve pounded (especially in the Ondo and Ekiti areas of Nigeria).
Aside from the function of holding the food, the leaves also impart noticeable flavour(s) to the food, its incredible...
|Ewe Eéran plant|
(pic courtesy Wikipedia)
The botanical name for the leaves is thaumatococcus daniellii. They are found across West Africa and parts of Congo. They are cultivated largely for their broad, tough leaves used for food wrapping and also for making thatch roofs. The stalks are used in weaving.
An interesting fact I found out about this plant is the fact that it has fruits (which I never knew) and that this fruit (miracle berry) is rich in a protein used to make a sweetener called thaumatin, 2,000 times sweeter than sugar, causes no tooth decay and ideal for diabetics.... This plant/fruit is also sometime referred to as Yoruba Soft Cane. Question is why is it Yoruba and not Hausa, Igbo, Twi, Asanti, etc?.......(tell me if you know why....)
Anyhuuuuu, I am officially now on a mission to find these fruits, eat them and exploit them in my recipes.....wish me luck.
How I use Ewe Eéran:
I do not only use these leaves for my moin-moin or eko I also use them to steam other foods such as vegetables and fish.