There is no doubt that vegetables are rich sources of healthy minerals and nutrients. However, very few are aware of what to expect from each of the numerous varieties. Today, we have decided to take a brief look at what is probably the most widely eaten vegetable across Africa- the quail-grass (Soko).

image of lagos spinach (soko) on a field
Image of Lagos spinach plant (soko). Photo credit: Kunle Olopa



Soko is very popular in Nigeria and different parts of Africa. Among its many names are: quail-grass, Lagos spinach and sokoyokoto in southwestern Nigeria, perhaps to reflect its royal status among the Yoruba who use it as the chief ingredient in their popular efo riro dish.

In Edo, it is called aborra; in Hausa, it is farar alayyafoo; in Igbo it is eriemionu. For the sake of clarity, we will adopt the name Soko for the rest of this piece.


The Origin of Soko is Unclear

There appears to be no consensus regarding the origin of Soko. There are speculations that it may have originated from Asia.

Why You Should Eat it More Often

Image of pounded yam and egusi with vegetable in a white dish
Image of pounded yam and egusi with vegetable; Source: Instagram-@nengiskitchen

Soko leaves are high in protein, vitamins A and C. It is also a very good source of calcium and iron. This leave also has numerous medicinal properties. Thus, it is used in treating numerous ailments across the world such as stomach troubles, malnutrition, venereal diseases etc.

Cooking and Preparation

Red Lagos spinach (soko pupa) on a field
Red Lagos spinach (soko pupa)

The vegetable should be boiled for a short period of (5minutes) to remove the accumulated nitrates and oxalates and make the plant material tender.

The cooking water should be discarded because it contains dissolved nitrates and oxalates from the plant pigments present in the stems and leaves.

Note however that long periods of cooking or boiling diminishes the vitamin content of the leaf.

Interesting Facts

Lagos spinach (soko pupa) on a field
Lagos spinach (soko pupa)
  • The seeds of the plant are also edible and nutritious, often used as a pseudo-grain.
  • In china, the plant is used as an antidote for snake bite. In the same country, the root has been used to treat infections such as colic, gonorrhea and eczema.
  • Mixed with honey, the plant has been used to treat sores and wounds in India and guess where again? China.
  • In Kenya, the water in which the leaves, flowers and stems have been boiled is used as a body-wash for convalescents by the Masai
  • In Ethiopia folk-medicine, the seeds are used for diarrhea and the flowers for dysentery and muscular troubles.
  • In Zaire, the oil extracted from its seeds is used in treating diarrhea.
  • In central Sumatra, the plant is used in spiritual ceremonies to appease the protective spirits.

If you don’t eat this world famous plant often enough, you are probably missing so much more than you realize.

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