On Pepper Soup Spice & Finding Names

Updated 29th May 2019, with the botanical names for Omilo/ Umilo

I am an explorer. The thrill of discovery is blood to my bones such that rifling – if you can call electonically paging through pdfs that – through documents about the organoplectic nature of xyz are adventure hunts for me. One of the things that I’m really concerned about, giving voice to is the names. The names of Nigerian ingredients – little known, under utilized and not celebrated enough spices, fruits, vegetables.

I’m of the opinion that we need to know more, research more, document more about that which we have in the hope that we will find new uses and applications that have broad meaning for the masses, across health and wellness spheres, addressing food security needs. Enter my chart – my beloved introduction to Nigerian peppersoup. It isn’t the first time I’ve written about the essential ‘Niger-Delta’ peppersoup ingredients. In fact, that post – my first on peppersoup remains the most read post on the blog.

It took me ages to put this card together because I was searching for the botanical name of one spice -umilo/ omilo/ emilo. In the end, after a hundred thousand (well, almost, and it certainly feels like it) searches, I came up with nought and decided to go ahead and publish it anyway. Publish it in the hope that someone, somewhere might happen upon this and say, ‘Ya, I know this’. Also, I am going to do a blog post on it next because I have different types of it, so that who knows, someone might discover that they indeed know what it’s called. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. It is an updated version of old posts, with more details on each spice and herb


1. Calabash Nutmeg

Other names:  African nutmeg

Botanical name: Monodora Myristica

Local Names: Erhe – Urhobo; Iwo – Itsekiri; Ehuru – Igbo; Ariwo – Yoruba; Gujiya dan miya – Hausa; Ukposa – Bini

Consists of: Shell and seed

Parts Used: Seed

Uses: condiment in soups, combined to make spice blends for peppersoup

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2. Gbafilo

Other names: Rough-skinned/ Grey/ Guinea plum

Botanical name: Chrysobalanus icaco

Local Names: Gbafilo/ Gbafilor– Itsekiri And out of interest, in Brazil, it is known as Grageru or Abageru

Consists of: Sandpaper like shell and kernel

Parts Used: kernel

Uses: condiment in soups, combined to make spice blends for peppersoup


3. Grains of Selim

The fruits are narrow, slightly torulose, dark brown or black, about 2in. long, borne many (seperate carpels) together on a stout penduncle (The Useful Plants of West Africa)

Other names:  African/ Guinea/ Ethiopian Pepper

Botanical name: Xylopia Aethiopica

Local Names: Urheri – Urhobo; UnienBini; Atta – Ibibio/Efik; Uda – Igbo; Eeru – Yoruba

Consists of: Skin and seeds. The seeds are bitter

Parts Used: both – the skin is used more often, ground and added to soups or bruised and used whole

Uses: condiment in soups, combined to make spice blends for peppersoup, added to agbo (bitters), put in water to purify it, added to palm wine as a flavourer.

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4. Uziza

Other names:  Bush Pepper, Guinea cubebs, West African Black Peppers

Botanical name: Piper Guineense

Local Names: Edusa – Ibibio; Eti-nkeni – Efik; Uziza – Igbo; Iyere – Yoruba

Consists of: Dried black berries

Uses: condiment used in soups, rice, etc

5. Alligator Pepper

Other names:  Grains of Paradise

Botanical name: Aframomum Melegueta

Local Names: Ehie ado – Bini; Ntuen – Efik; Ose oji/ okwa – Igbo; Oburo – Yoruba

Consists of: Skin and seeds. The seeds are aromatic and pungent, with some strains of cardamom flavour

Parts Used: the seeds are ground and added to soups, stews; also chewed with kolanuts where it produces a numbing effect

Uses: condiment in soups, combined to make spice blends for peppersoup, added to agbo (bitters), put in water to purify it, added to palm wine as a flavourer.


6. Tetrapleura Tetraptera

Other names:  Prekese [Ghana]

Botanical name: Aframomum Melegueta

Local Names: Aridan – Yoruba; Edem Inang – Efik; Ighimiakhie  – Bini; Usho usho – Igbo

Consists of: long winged fruit pods, two hardy, two soft and sweet edible wings.

Parts Used: soft wings are edible and used

Uses: ground for soups, roasted and ground for soups and sauces. Ground pulp is sometimes added to palm wine to flavour it.

Yet unknown

7. Umilo, Omilo

Other names:  Cocoplum [Caribbean]

Botanical name: Chrysobalanus icaco

Local Names: Omilo/ Umilo – Itsekiri

Consists of: Shell and seed/ kernel

Parts Used: Shell is broken and seed/ kernel inside is used.

Do you know anything about it? Something to add? Its botanical name? Name in another language? Please help!


Thank you x


  1. This is an excellent resource. Thank you for making it. Would you mind if I transferred your translations to Wiktionary, so they can be more widely-used, including by people who don’t speak English?

    If you come across similar puzzles in the future, uploading botanical picture to Wikimedia Commons (the image repository for Wikipedia) is a good way to get them identified. If you add your uploaded photo to “Category:Unidentified food” or “Category:Unidentified spices”, or both, someone will often come and identify it. If not, ask at the Village Pump or Help Desk, and they will help you find someone to ask for an identification. There are professional botanists and botanical organizations active on Commons; you have a good chance of getting an authoritative answer.

    I’ll try to remember to check back here for any reply. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for this information.I’ve been buying pepper soup mix but the taste is different from the one I use in Nigeria. Been searching for a while now to know the exact ingredients in order to make my own.

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