The scent leaf that has the botanical name Ocimum gratissimum is native with Nigerians and is known by the Igbos as Arigbi or Nchuanwu, by the Yorubas as Efinrin and by the Hausas as Daidoya while the Efik call it Ntong. This is a food item that has remained the secret of many acclaimed good cooks over the years. This is because it agrees or synchronises with many foods even as the aroma it produces is ever inviting.
You may not believe that this vegetable can be applied to both local Nigeria dishes and continental cuisines to produce a mouthwatering outcome.

Planting the scent leaf
Scent Leaf is one of Nigeria’s very popular herbs. You can easily grow it in your garden around the house or even in a pot. It could be described as a “stress-free” plant even though it is a perennial plant. To grow this herb you sprinkle the dried seeds into the soil and within 2-3 weeks you can start to use the herb in dishes.

Storing and preservation
The only known means of preserving this vegetable/herb is by drying it up. It can be stored as dried leaves or crushed into powder. This does not reduce its taste in foods or its efficacy as medicine.
Nutrition facts
The scent leaf offers a good dose of blood-clotting vitamin K. Experts inform that 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh scent leaf provides 27% of the RDA — as well as vitamin A, manganese, and magnesium.

This emphasis – as food – has become necessary since the scent leaf serves several medicinal purposes. However, adding it to your menu helps you accomplish the saying “eat your food as medicine so you will not have to eat medicine as food”.
There are several ways to enhance the quality of our food using the scent leaf. Here are some ways to apply the scent leaf:

This is obtained by squeezing the leaves of this plant to remove fluid (or extract of Scent leaves). Then take the extract and brew it with hot water then drink it. Regular drinking of extracted juice from scent leaf takes care of cough and helps to detoxify the system and improves the appetite. You can also brew the tea using dried scent leaves crushed into powder.

2. Scent leaf, and Water leaf soup
Sizeable quantity of both vegetables depending on the number of persons to be served.
Dry fish
Stock fish
Palm oil
Salt to taste

Cook meat, and stock fish together till tender. Then blend crayfish, pepper, and ogiri together.
When the meat is cooked, add dry fish, palmoil, blended crayfish and pepper allow to boil, then you add scent leaf and cover for about 2-3 minutes then add water leaf, cover and allow to boil for 1 minute.
Turn off the light and serve with any foofoo. This soup is highly compatible with rice. Just try it.

3. To pep up Regular foods


Jollof rice with palm oil and scent leaves
Nigerian tomato Stew

You can make the above dishes more exciting with the addition of a handful of scent leaves. A combination with other local spices has proven to be more exciting and makes the dish more unique.

4. Scent leaf flavoured beans porridge
A lot of people use plantains to prepare beans dishes which is quite admirable and delicious. Addition of local “utazi” vegetables makes it more enjoyable but inclusion of the scent leaves either as dried powder/ spice or as vegetable makes a world of difference.

5. Pepper soups
For all kinds of pepper soup:
*fish (fresh or dry)
*goat meat

It will always yield a wonderful result when the scent leaf is added to your pot of meal. For people who find the smell of fresh fish repulsive, the antidote is in the scent leaf. With chicken and goat meat pepper soup, the scent leaf is king and makes a wonderful output when garlic is added. These pepper soups could be eaten with Agidi, bread or even crackers biscuits.

Catfish pepper soup garnished with scent leaves and yellow pepper.

6. Scent leaf Salsa

Ingredients (To serve 1)
*1 small sweet mango (ripe)
*1 avocado (medium size)
*1 large tomato (deseeded and diced)
*1 small purple onion (diced)
*I small garlic (optional – crushed into a paste)
a hand full of basil or scent leaves
*1 small yellow lime
*⅛tsp Cameroon pepper or chili flakes or regular dry pepper or ¼tsp black pepper
*salt to taste

Peel the mango and avocado; cut the meaty part into small chunks.
Mix with the tomato, onion, garlic and scent leaves.
Squeeze in the lime juice, season with the peppers and salt.
Cool in a fridge for about 30minutes, then serve as a dip for plantain chips or even yam.

7. Porridge with scent leaf
Various local porridge turn out better with the scent leaf. You may check out the unripe plantain porridge, yam porridge, mashed potato porridge and others.

Unripe plantain porridge
Yam porridge

Mashed potato porridge

8. Ofe akwu
Ofe akwu (Palm stew) is a traditional Igbo stew that is fast gaining international recognition just like Nigerian jollof rice. It has been found to be nutritious and organic and remains sumptuous though the scent leaf places it above other stews/soups on the menu chart.

Egusi soup with scent leaf

*Chunks of lightly smoked Fish
*Stockfish (optional)
*1/2 cup smoked Prawns (optional)
*Pieces of Cowleg (optional)
*2 cups Egusi, roasted and ground
*handful scent leaf
*1 medium size Onion
*Yellow Pepper to taste
*3 cooking spoons Tomato/ Pepper blend, previously boiled (optional)
*1 teaspoon Crayfish
*3 cooking spoons Palm oil or less if are avoiding oil.
* Ogili (local Igbo spice)
*Salt to taste

Wash, season and cook the beef, cow leg and stockfish till tender.
Mix half of the ground Egusi with 1/2 the onion which is blended or grated.
Place Egusi in a mortar and pound with the onion till oil starts to appear.  Gather the dough into a ball and squeeze out as much oil as possible.
Set the ”skimmed’ Egusi aside for use in the soup.
Heat the oil till hot and fry the remaining onion that had been sliced. Fry till onion starts to brown around the edges, then add the tomato/ pepper blend. Fry till tanginess goes off.
Add the washed smoked prawns, fish and crayfish and fry for about 2 minutes.
Pour in the meat, stock fish and the stock and some water then bring to boil.
Taste and correct the seasoning.
Cut up small pieces of the dough and add to the pot of soup whilst the soup is boiling.
Allow the Egusi bits to set and stir with a wooden spoon.
Gradually add the remaining Egusi powder until you have the desired consistency.
When soup thickens add the scent leaves last and turn off the heat.

Serve your soup with any swallow of choice or rice.

Scent leaf pancake

*2 cups flour
*1/2 tsl of baking powder
* Salt to taste
*2 tbsp sugar
*11/4 cups milk
*1 egg
*3 tbsp butter
*scent leaves- Diced & washed
*Vegetable oil for shalow frying

Add all the liquid ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder, salt and sugar.
Make a well in the center and pour in liquid ingredients and the scent leaves.
Mix till you achieve a smooth dough; not to thick and not too watery
Heat a frying pan (non stick pan)
Sprinkle a little vegetable oil, like 10mls.
Pour a scoop into the pan to fry. Do not turn it, leave it like that in the pan to form the desired round shape. Cook on low heat for best of results.
Allow to fry till done and brown on both sides.
Serve hot.

The scent leaf, as common as it is, cheap and within reach remains the secret of a good and healthy kitchen.

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