Ghana Off The Beaten Path Tips by grets Top 5 Page for this destination
Ghana Off The Beaten Path: 43 reviews and 94 photos
Separating the millet from the husks
Millet is grass-like grain grown throughout Ghana for use as food for humans and animals. Millet is separated from the husks, then washed and toasted. It can then be eaten more or less as it is, just boiled with water (used as an accompaniment to meat in the same way as rice may be used), flour can be made from the grain, as well as beer.
Goat near the beach
The ubiquitous goats are found everywhere – every village has them and every available pieces of land, be it beside the road or between the buildings in the town had one or more goats grazing on it. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated animal species, being kept for their milk (of which you can also make cheese), meat (which is more nutritional than mutton), hair (there is less fibre per goat than per sheep) and skin. Goats are favoured over cattle as they are easier to manage, cheaper to purchase, more versatile in their diet and they have multiple uses.
For some time I did have a real problem distinguishing between sheep and goats in West Africa. Goats, however, have a coarser, straighter coat than sheep and the ears are often different.
This is not a case of slash and burn, more a way of clearing off the undergrowth to encourage new growth of young saplings for the cattle to eat. We saw many scrubs burning like this along the side of the road everywhere we went.
All along the road are large grey bags full of charcoal, topped with straw. I've often wondered why people cook over charcoal. It seems so labour-intensive to stack up wood in huge, dirt ovens and bake it slowly down to little black lumps. Why not just burn the wood? To make charcoal, wood (mostly acacia trees are used here) is baked slowly under layers of soil to deprive it of oxygen. With the volatile components (water, tar and methane) baked away, all that is left is a pile of black pellets just 20- 25% of the original volume of the wood. It is now mostly carbon, and when it burns, it doesn’t emit lots of smoke, and it will burn hotter, longer and cleaner than wood, which means that it can easily be used inside the mud huts without filling the houses with smoke
This is a common sight in every village all over Ghana (and the rest of West Africa). Yam is pounded in these tall, wooden, hollow containers with a long, wooden mallet for about half an hour to make fufu, the main staple of the area. Fufu is similar to a dumpling, and is usually served with meat and/or vegetables in a sauce.
Red, unripe cocoa pods
Cocoa is the dried and partially fermented oily seed of the cacao tree. Although originating from the Andes, 70% of the world cocoa production now takes place in west Africa, with Ghana taking second place after Ivory Coast. The Latin name theobroma cacao means food of the gods. Like the flower (see picture five), the pods grow straight from the trunk of the tree. The red or orange pods are of poorer quality and generally used for industrial chocolate (see picture four). Normally they are harvested when they are yellow (picture one).
The cocoa pods have a thick outer shell, which contains up to 50 beans contained in a sweet pulp. Although this pulp is edible (in fact it is very nice – we tried sucking a covered bean and it tasted a little like mange to me), the pulp (called baba de cacao) is imperative to the processing of the bean.
The beans, complete with the pulp, are piled in heaps on the ground for several days, during which time the pulp ferments and runs off. Without this fermentation process the cocoa beans will not taste right. Some producers also use the liquified pulp to make alcohol.
The beans are then spread out on trays or the ground and allowed to be dried in the sun before being trodden on much in the same way as grapes during wine production. To make 1kg of chocolate, up to 600 beans are required and the cocoa production is very poorly paid.
I was fascinated by the various gas stations in urban Ghana. The modern, clean and conventional gas stations as seen in the Western world are of course available all over Ghana, but many people still get their fuel from these traditional road side sellers. It is mostly used by the small motorbikes, but also cars, lorries and motor boats use this.
There is a known problem in Ghana with illegal imports of gas from Nigeria, and in fact, when we were on a lake in Benin, close to the Nigerian border, we did see some counterfeit barrels being smuggled across.
The juice extractor
Zomi Palm fruits are used to make oil. Traditionally the juice was extracted manually – a task usually done by men as it was physically too demanding for the women – but these days a machine is used for the process. See picture one.
The juice is then boiled over an open fire to make the oil (picture two).
The resulting oil has a deep red colour (see picture three) and is sold as it is in the markets for cooking, although larger organizations will bleach the oil prior to export. It is this natural pigmentation that gives the fried plantain its name in the dish red red. (See the restaurant tips for more details)
As well as culinary uses, the oil can be used to make soaps and candles, as a lubricant and to protect iron surfaces before tin is applied in the tin plate industry. It is also used textile and rubber industries.
This small industry is run as an income generating / poverty alleviating program run by the Methodist Church in Assin Nyankomasi. Local women benefit tremendously from this as it offers them the opportunity to earn some money (see picture four).
The remaining pulp is dried and used as fuel or animal fodder (picture five)
The roots are harvestd manually by pulling
Also known as the manioc, cassava is grown for its large, starch-filled root. It is extensively cultivated as an annual crop throughout Africa, and in every village you can see the ladies pounding the cassava to make fufu – the staple carbohydrate of West Africa. There are many other ways of eating cassava too, including boiled and fried, but the root cannot be eaten raw as it contains substances which convert to cyanide. A flour is made from cassava root too, known as tapioca flour.
Cassava is best eaten very fresh, as the flavour goes off as quickly as one or two days after harvesting, which makes it tricky for export.
Okra is grown in many parts of Africa, it is an ancient plant originating from Ethiopia. It beings to the family Malvaceae. Okra can be either annual or perennial and the plant grows upright to a height of 2m. Okra is one of the most heat- and drought-tolerant vegetables in the world; once the plant has become established, it can survive severe drought conditions. This could be one of the reasons it is grown so widely in Africa.
The plant is grown for its 7-9cm-long fruit and is usually eaten while young as older fruits can become woody. The fruits are used as a thickening agent in many dishes, as they produce a glutinous substance when cooked. Okra leaves may also be eaten, either cooked or added to salads.
Okra was brought to America with the slave route and is now a very popular vegetable in the States.
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