October 10, 2009

West African Peanut & Sweet Potato Stew

Picture courtesy of the lovely Ms. Sarah Clark

I must share with you an incredible program that I recently became involved with: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP). It was founded in 1998 by Hugh Joseph, faculty at AFE (my program), with the mission to assist small-scale farmers with limited resources while “supporting the vitality and sustainability of the region’s agriculture.” The program is a perfect example of a successful effort to enhance the resurgence of local agriculture. New Entry provides farmers with education, resources, training, and production and marketing assistance so that they can sustainably grow New England foods.

NESFP is an important part of the Tufts AFE program and gives students like myself a variety of opportunities to explore areas of community agriculture. My role, for example, is to facilitate the wholesale process for next year’s crops, by both developing an education guide for farmers and a wholesale catalog for buyers. Although much of the agriculture is distributed to consumers via the World PEAS Cooperative CSA and farmers’ markets, the program would like to see an increase in wholesales to retail stores that promote local agriculture, like Wholefoods and co-ops.

Picture courtesy of Sarah Clark

One of the most interesting aspects of the New Entry program is that it was one of the first initiatives to help facilitate farming opportunities for immigrants and refugees. Farmers have come from a number of countries including Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and South America. The program helps these farmers grow and sell many of the crops native to their homelands.

Picture courtesy of NESFP website

I recently had an opportunity to visit a new acreage site and meet some of the farmers at the NESFP Harvest Festival in Dracut, MA. I brought home an array of new and exciting ethnic crops including amaranth greens, sweet potato greens, green eggplant, African peppers, and garlic chives. As you can imagine, my mind is constantly racing with new cooking ideas….Ah ha! I got it: West African peanut soup with sweet potato greens, inspired by a delicious recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

* For more information on the NEWSFP visit: http://nesfp.nutrition.tufts.edu/index.html
*Click here to listen to NPR’s Here and Now feature on New Entry.

The cuisine of West Africa (Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia…) varies by region, but in a broad sense, is known for its use of peanuts, cassava, plantains, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, usually in the form of a soup or stew served over grains like rice, couscous or millet. The following recipe is an adaptation of what I can imagine would be typical in many regions of West Africa.

West African Peanut & Sweet Potato Stew

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

The sweet and savory stew is excellent over millet, which allows the grain to soak up all of the delicious juices.

Makes 4-6 servings.

¾ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-5 cups vegetable broth
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices
10 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (canned are fine)
½ pound sweet potato greens, collard greens, or kale, cut into wide ribbons
¼ cup natural chunky peanut butter
1 cup millet, rinsed

To cook millet:

In a medium saucepan, combine millet with a large pinch of salt and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until water has been absorbed, 20-25 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand until ready to serve. Fluff with fork.

To cook stew:

Put oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of peanuts, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.

Add broth and sweet potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, greens and peanut butter. Cover and cook until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve over prepared millet, garnished with remaining peanuts.


  1. yay! nice blog Lesley : ) the stew looks delish.

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