Food/ West African Food

Everything You Need to Know About the African Butter Pear, Safou, or Ube

In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about the African butter pear, safou, or ube. Safou is a brilliantly purple coloured fleshy fruit. It is also rich in oils, vitamins, and antioxidants. The botanical name for it is Dacryodes Edulis. Other names for it includes African plum, bush pear, purple pear, butter fruit or nsafu. Only parts of Nigeria know it as ube, however it has a variety of names in other regions. Safou, and atanga are its other names in Cameroon and Gabon respectively. It is easy to confuse the African with ube, the purple water yam from the Philippines. I still find it highly coincidental that they are both purple, but that is beside the point.

Where To Find African Butter Pear

You can find ube in Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, DRC, and Benin. Whilst its natural habitat extends beyond these countries, I am yet to find information on its prevalence in countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Angola. It, however, seems most popular in Central and West, Francophone Africa, and Nigeria. It is common to find ube in the typical West African open-air markets, by the roadside as a ready roasted snack with corn, or in some supermarkets.

Where Can You Get Safou Out of Africa

Today, the butter pear is exported to various countries around the world. When in season, it can be found in West African markets in large Europe-based cities like London and Brussels. I don’t have a comprehensive list yet but you can get them in Peckham in London and West African markets in Brussels. Check any area with a sizeable Gabon, Cameroon, or Nigerian community and search their markets between May and August. Come back and let us know where you find them. We are happy to share for the benefit of our readers.

An increasing number of African food specialist companies are now importing frozen ube and selling them online, making them available throughout the year in some markets.

What Does African Butter Pear Taste Like

I have been learning more and more about this fruit since I first learned of its existence in 2014. A wonderful lady sent me a gift all the way from Gabon to London. My husband used to travel across West Africa often for work. During my time in Nigeria, I got to sample this every year when it was in season between May and August. The first time I tasted it, it was in the form of Caviar d’atanga, a sort of tapenade in olive oil. When I got to Lagos, I tasted it again with nothing else added but a little salt.

It was boiled and very tart to taste. A couple of years later, I roasted them until charred and the flavour was absolutely amazing. I have since learned that we can add salt or sugar to them to get different flavours.

You will find an in-depth flavour analysis of this fruit, different methods of preparation, and an assessment of which preparation method tastes the best in this video summary from my Youtube Channel.

How to Roast Ube At Home

As mentioned before, on Lagos Streets you will find them sold along with roasted corn and sometimes, coconut flesh. The best way to have ube is to have it char-grilled or roasted, just like they do on the road side. At home you can get the same flavours by dry pan roasting just like in this video. Exercise a little patience to get perfect results. Sprinkle a little salt and enjoy. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Reply
    August 2, 2023 at 1:11 am

    That shit is bitter. The first time i tasted it was last week. I boiled it. One of the most bitter fruit i have ever eaten in my life.

    • Reply
      January 24, 2024 at 8:41 pm

      I have to admit I was shocked as well first time I made it, boiled. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavour when I pan roasted it.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2024 at 8:22 pm

    Hi, Freda
    I can confirm that there is butter pear in the north of Angola specifically in Uige and round about and it is called “nsafu”.

    • Reply
      May 9, 2024 at 2:52 pm

      Thank you so much for confirming that

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