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Select African Diaspora Plant Inventory (Overview and Part 1)

Updated: 2 days ago



The enslavement of West Africans to provide labor for the economic engine for European nations and the colonization of the Americas and the Caribbean. Africans who landed on these shores adapted their agricultural knowledge to newfound conditions - on large-scale agricultural productions on plantations, on plantation subsistence gardens they created to supplement their own food needs and in villages of freed slaves who fled from their captors and created their own agricultural economies to sustain their maroon communities.

We have assembled more than 100 plants from various sources - books, publications, prototype gardens and conferences. 

But this is just the beginning.   Our select African Diaspora plant inventory is North American and Caribbean-centric.  We will eventually add more plants from the current gardening scene in West Africa, the Caribbean and South America.

Sources consulted

1. New York Botanical Garden - African American Garden: Remembrance & Resilience

(at the Edible Academy)

2. New York Botanical Garden - African American Garden:  The Caribbean Experience

(At the Edible Academy; exhibition now closed)

3. Colonial Williamsburg Sankofa Heritage Garden

4. Truelove Seeds - African Diaspora Collection

8. Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance - Ujamaa Seeds

9. In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World

(Judith A. Carney)

10. Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener’s Guide to Planting,

Seed Saving and Cultural History (William Woys Weaver)

11. Farming While Black:  Soul Fire Farm’s Practical to Liberation on the Land

(Leah Penniman)

12. From Seed to Skillet:  A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting and Cooking

Up Fresh, Healthful Food to Share with People You Love (Jimmy Williams)

13. 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From (William Woys Weaver)

14. The Whole Okra:  A Seed to Stem Celebration (Chris Smith)

15. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas

(Judith A. Carney)

This Gardening While Black Select African Diaspora Inventory is currently presented in five parts, including vegetables, herbs and spices. We update this Diaspora Inventory - gathering information from various sources, including botanical gardens, slave ships, plantati0ns, museums and the post-emancipation gardens of African-Americans and other African Diaspora communities.

Select African Diaspora Plant Inventory - Part 1 (A-C)

Local vendors with their wares.  Commune of Adjamé, Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire)
Abidjan, Ivory Coast – Local vendors with their products in the commune of Adjamé, Abidjan.





Ackee/Akee Apple

Blighia sapida

West Africa;  tropical;  Ackee and salt fish - popular dish in Caribbean;  fruit of Sapindaceae (Soapberry)

NYBG-Caribbean;  In the Shadow of Slavery:  Africa’s Botanical Legacy In The Atlantic World - 2009 (J. Carney)


Aloe vera

Native to tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula and islands in the Indian Ocean

Amaranth:   Calaloo

Amaranthus spinosus

Domesticated in Africa, Americas and the Caribbean;  Vegetable amaranth

NYBG-Caribbean; Truelove Seeds;  In the Shadow of Slavery - 2009 (J. Carney)


Bixa orellana

Orange-red condiment/food coloring;  thrives in warm, humid climates (India, Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and other locations)

NYBG-Caribbean; Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity (Slow Food Foundation)


Maranta arundinacea

West Indian arrowroot;  from indigenous group, arawak; tropical root vegetable

Banana:  African rhino horn,  Grand Pain

Musa acuminata x musa balbisiana

Basil:  Besobela (Ethiopian Basil);  Vana Tulsi

Ocimum basilicum var. minimum;  Besobela - Ocimum spp/;  Vana - Ocimum gratissimum

Besobela - Ethiopia;  Vana - Africa, Madagascar, southern Asia,Bismarck Archipelago of New Guinea  Vana - West African culinary herb

Bay Laurel

Laurus nobvbilis

Bean (legume):  Black turtle, Kebariuka,  Red kidney bean (light),  Pole snap bean

Phaseolus vulgaris

Farming While Black:  Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land - 2018 (L. Penniman); NYBG-CaribbeanUjamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance

Bean:  Lima bean;  Speckled Brown Butterbean (Bush)

Phaseolus lunatus

Per Truelove, Speckled Brown Butterbean considered a traditional delicacy of North American South;  origin in South America

Bean:  Mbogo green

Lablab purpureus

Kenya;  East Africa;  Creator god Mbombo

Farming While Black - 2018 (L. Pennman);  In the Shadow of Slavery:  Africa’s Botanical Legacy In The Atlantic World - 2009 (J. Carney)

Butterfly milkweed

Asclepius tuberosa

Native to eastern and southwest North America

Cassava, manihot, yuca

Manihot esculenta

Edible leaves and tuber;  requires special cooking technique to reduce poison

NYBG-CaribbeanUjamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance;  Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science (The Huntington)


Nepeta cataria

Mint family;  medicinal properties


Sicyos edulis (educe);  Sechium edule

Mexico-Central America-Caribbean;  Squash, in gourd family - cucurbitaceae;  used in many Cuban recipes;  hot tropical gardens

NYBG-Caribbean; Slow Food Foundation;  Heirloom Vegetable Gardening:  A Master Gardener’s Guide To Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History - 2018 (W.W. Weaver)

Cilantro (Coriander)

Coriandrum sativum

Edible annual herb likely native to the Mediterranean

Coffee (robusta)

Coffee robusta

West Africa

In the Shadow of Slavery - 2009 (J. Carney)

Corn:  Sea Island White Flint

Zea mays

Crops from Sea Islands, Georgia, South Carolina

Cucumber:  Burr Gherkin, West Indian gherkin

Cucumis anguria

Angola to the Caribbean

Farming While Black  - 2018 (L. Penniman);  In the Shadow of Slavery - 2009 (J. Carney)

Cucumber:  Cerasee (African cucumber/bitter melon/balsam pear)

Momordica charantia 'big top’, charantia ‘goya’, 'jade dragon’, ‘cundeamor'

Bitter melon leaf used in Jamaica for healing properties of leaves

NYBG-Caribbean; Truelove Seeds;  In the Shadow of Slavery - 2009 (J. Carney)


Eryngium foetidum

Culinary and medicinal leafy greens commonly used in Caribbean and Latin America

Curry tree

Murraya koenigii

Tropical and subtropical tree native to Asia 


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