Celebrating Juneteenth with A Taste of African Heritage!

Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States, which took place in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The annual holiday, which is also recognized as Freedom Day, is celebrated with community and family gatherings, which, of course, means food – lots of delicious food!

The African Heritage Diet is a way of eating based on the healthy food traditions of people with African roots. This healthy way of eating is powerfully nutritious and delicious, and naturally meets the guidelines experts recommend for supporting good health.

Rich in nutrients and fresh vegetables, African heritage dishes are robust, flavorful and ripe with vitamins. In celebration of Juneteenth, the West African dish of Green Peas and Yams is a delicious recipe ideal for creating a healthy meal out of simple ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, onions, hot peppers, tomato paste and fresh or frozen green peas. Taste for yourself! 

Green Peas and Sweet Potato (West Africa)

4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced (or 2 15oz cans)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Large Onion, diced
1 hot pepper* minced OR 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon Tomato Paste
Green Peas, frozen, fresh or canned (drained)
*leave stem and seeds on for added heat

Place diced sweet potato in tall pan and cover with water. Cook until sweet potato are tender. If using canned sweet potato, rinse, dice and set on the side. Heat oil in saucepan, add onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add hot pepper and sauté for another 1 or 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add a little water if sticking occurs. Add peas and sweet potato’s, adding a little water if necessary to avoid sticking. Cook until hot … and enjoy!

A celebration of flavors and culture!

In celebrating the richness, beauty and health of African heritage dishes, options for enjoying the flavors of peanuts, fresh fruits, bountiful vegetables, ripe bananas, brown rice, red beans, coconut milk and more bring the expression of African seasonings home for everyone to enjoy, from warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to inspired pasta dishes with blasts of cayenne framing delicious family dinners featuring fish, beans and a variety of heart healthy proteins

What other dishes pay tribute to African Heritage cooking?

AFRICAN PEANUT SOUP: Packed with protein, this traditional West African soup uses peanut butter to flavor sweet potatoes and other vegetables. It’s delicious and filling. Garnish with roasted crushed peanuts and sliced scallions for a visual treat.

AFRICAN HERITAGE MANGO & PAPAYA AFTER-CHOP: African heritage desserts have traditionally been based on fresh fruit. A common dessert in West Africa, the “after-chop”, is a fresh fruit salad with coconut, peanuts, and honey mixed together loaded with flavor and nutrition, so you can feel good about treating your sweet tooth after a meal. Substitute any of your favorite in-season fruits for this medley. Blueberries, peaches, and bananas are great options. You can also add granola to enjoy it as a delicious, summertime breakfast!

BROWN RICE & RED BEANS IN LIGHT COCONUT MILK: A Caribbean staple, this Red Beans & Rice recipe includes coconut milk, which gives the dish a creamy, flavorful finish.

JAMAICAN RASTA PASTA: Jerk seasoning is a spice blend used in Jamaican cuisine that often includes warm spices like cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, allspice, and cayenne. It adds a punch of flavor to this Caribbean inspired pasta dish.

FUFU: Fufu is the most common mash of western Africa. Traditional West African dinner = hearty bowl of vegetable stew with a thick, doughlike mash. Fufu is as common in West and Central Africa as mashed potatoes are in America. Fufu is made from African yams, plantains, cassava, or corn. To make traditional fufu, a starchy vegetable is boiled and then pounded until it has a soft, dough-like consistency. You can buy traditional, premade fufu flour at African markets. Boil the flour in water and stir until the fufu becomes as thick as dough. Fufu is often enjoyed as a side dish to soup or stew, eaten by tearing small pieces off and using it to scoop up the stew.

OLDWAYS JOLLOF RICE WITH BLACK-EYED PEAS: Jollof Rice is a much-loved traditional dish in West Africa, and it is the underpinning of Senegal’s national dish thiebou dienn, a meal of red rice and fish. Its name is derived from Senegal’s Wolof Empire and it is one of many tomato-based rice dishes found in African heritage. Layers of warm spices and seasonings make this traditional African rice and bean dish delicious! Enjoy it as a side or as the centerpiece of your meal.

YUCA FRIES: Yuca root (pronouced yoo-cuh) is enjoyed as a staple starch throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Also known as cassava or manioc, yuca root is high in fiber, antioxidants, and many beneficial nutrients. Yuca’s consistency, and sweet earthy flavor are perfect for hearty, healthy oven fries. Kids will especially love this recipe! Good news: Yuca is a healthy, fat-free and gluten-free root vegetable that has a brown outer skin and is white on the inside. Yuca is high in Vitamins C, B & A as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron, and it’s higher in fiber and potassium than potatoes!

COLD BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD: Black-eyed peas have long been symbolic in African American culture and cuisine. This salad, an update to an Oldways classic, requires no cooking, and its crisp, bright flavor will liven up any table. To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl combine and whisk the vinegar, lime juice, mustard, and honey. Drizzle in the olive oil gradually, whisking to combine. Add in the shallot (if using), cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste, whisking to combine. In a medium to large bowl, combine the black eyed peas, cucumber, peppers, and cilantro (if using). Add the vinaigrette to the black-eyed pea mixture, stirring to combine. Refrigerate to chill before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired. 

Did you know?

The Food Bank of South Jersey offers the opportunity to explore the health and flavors of African cooking by experiencing A Taste of African Heritage, a celebration of the culture of Africa through food that is easy to prepare and budget!  

A Taste of African Heritage and A Children’s Taste of African Heritage bring African food traditions to life through hands-on experience. This 6-week cooking curriculum teaches history, nutrition, and cooking techniques that reconnect participants with the vibrant, healthy traditions of the African Diaspora.

Oldways, a nonprofit organization helping people rediscover and embrace the healthy, sustainable joys of the “old ways” of shared cultural traditions, presents these wonderful learning opportunities – presented to South Jersey by our Health & Wellness team. For more information on A Taste of African Heritage visit our Health & Wellness programs and services.