Nigerians turn to cucumber, cayenne pepper as tomato prices bite

Nigerians are now turning to cucumber, carrot and cayenne peppers as alternatives to tomatoes, a major vegetable recipe for making Nigerian stew and puree for cooking various kinds of local dishes

This is to cushion the effect of high tomato costs on people’s pockets as market prices of the crop continue to soar relentlessly.

BusinessDay findings show that many Nigerians now use cucumber, carrot and cayenne pepper, popularly called ‘shombo’, in preparing their stew and other meals

Also, prices of fresh tomatoes have risen by over 120 percent in the country in one to two months, forcing consumers to switch to pastes and other substitutes that are relatively cheaper

A market survey by BusinessDay reporter revealed that prices of fresh tomatoes – a key ingredient in making Nigerian jollof rice and different stews – have risen to an average price of N110,000 for a big basket at Mile 12 market of Lagos, as against between N40,000 and N50,000 sold in April and early May.

In Lagos, Folake Aturamu, a mother of four, said the rising cost of fresh tomatoes has made her discover new recipes she didn’t know existed.

According to her, cayenne pepper, popularly called ‘shombo’ or ‘tatashe’ in Yoruba, is her new alternative.

“I didn’t add fresh tomatoes to the stew I just made. With shombo pepper and tomato paste, I got the thickness I needed,” she said.

She said the hike in tomato price has made her unable to afford the vegetable anymore

“I have to think of my girls. They have to eat,” Aturamu said.

Another Nigerian, who has switched to a cheaper alternative, is a mother of five.
She said her family has turned to tatashe pepper, which she described as a good thickening ingredient, due to the rising cost of tomatoes.

“I now use tatashe pepper because the rising cost of tomatoes is becoming alarming. How can I buy only four seeds of fresh tomatoes for N500?” the woman, who does not want her name in print, asked

Sharing her experience, Oluchi Duru, a mother of two, said she now makes use of cucumber to prepare stew for family and the recipe has turned out to be good.

According to her, mixing tomato paste, tatashe pepper and cucumber makes a perfect combination for stew in the face of the skyrocketing prices of fresh tomatoes

She said her whole family loved the recipe, which explains why she was able to successfully make the switch without glitches.

Elizabeth Onuoha, an Aba-based businesswoman, told our reporter that she is now using carrots as an alternative to fresh tomatoes.

She said mixing carrots with cayenne and red bell peppers tastes good in stew or jollof rice.

“With the above combination, one can hardly know that it is not a tomato stew,” she said

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