The Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranean) is an African legume that is originally from West Africa. Not only is it a popular dish in Zimbabwe, but it is also the third most consumed legume in Africa. It is only rivaled by the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) and the cowpea (Vigan unguiculata). The Bambara groundnut is popular because it is drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and doesn’t demand much from the soil.
This plant goes by different names depending on which part of Africa you are in. For example, it is called Jugo beans in South Africa, Okpa or Epa-Roro in Nigeria, and Nyimo beans in Zimbabwe. Due to its rich carbohydrate, protein and fat content, this nut is considered to be a complete food. In fact, the Bambara nut contains more amino acids than peanuts. Apart from its primary cultivation centers in the west and southern Africa, the Bambara groundnut is also grown in South East Asia.
Though most people are familiar with roast groundnuts, Bambara seeds can also be consumed boiled or ground up into flour. Bambara flour can then be added to maize flour to prepare traditional cakes and porridge. Across Africa, the nut is sometimes used to make Bambara milk (for weaning infants), as animal feed, fish feed, and even for medicinal purposes. It is a shame that a crop with such remarkable potential has been relegated to the back burner in many African countries.
Preparing Roasted Bambara Nuts
Back in the village, Liz and her husband had to sample some of this nutritious plant. Therefore, Elizabeth’s mother took up the task of preparing roasted Bambara groundnuts for her visitors. Since the groundnut comes encased in pods, the first step in the process is to remove the shells.
Elizabeth’s mother placed the Bambara nuts into a traditional mortar and pounded them using the pestle. She pounded the nuts continually until the shells began to peel off. Like a pro, Elizabeth’s mum would raise the pestle, rolled it between her palms and continued pounding the nuts without skipping a beat.
After that, she poured the contents of the mortar into a winnowing basket. During the winnowing process, the shells separate from the nuts and fall to the ground. This process is generally easier if the shelling was done properly, as the powdered shells will simply blow off the basket. Once the winnowing was completed, she then placed the nuts into a bowl in preparation for the roasting.
In the rural areas of Africa, cooking is usually done outdoors with an open fire being lit between three large stones. Liz’s mama placed a pan over the fire and added the raw groundnuts. However, there’s a little trick that Liz’s mum used when roasting the nuts. In order to get them to dry properly and develop that crunchy feel, she added a little bit of water and some salt to the nuts in the pan. The salt adds to the flavor of the nuts.
Liz and John were definitely in for a treat as they also partook in another local delicacy – roast maize. The maize cob is prepared by roasting it over an open fire to enhance its flavor and then it is enjoyed as a snack.
In Africa, meals and even snacks are a communal affair. Liz would sit outside with her mum and other family members and chew on the scrumptious roast maize and groundnuts as they chatted about everything under the sun.
Of course, it’s advisable to have some drinking water nearby for obvious reasons. Chewing on roasted nuts and maize can leave your throat quite dry.
The Rape Plant
During her trip to her home village, Liz also visited her uncle who owns a vegetable farm. He grows all kinds of vegetables that he sells to the local community. One of the vegetables that .he grows on his farm is the Rape plant. This is one of the most popular vegetables grown in Zimbabwe, whether you go to the towns or rural areas. The only vegetable that is more popular than the rape plant is covo.
Liz’s uncle managed to share the process that he uses to grow his rape plants from seedlings to market-ready vegetables.
- The soil is first prepared by removing all the weeds.
- The ground is then tilled before a rake is used to loosen the soil. This serves to aerate the soil and create enough room for the vegetables to grow properly.
- The seeds are then placed in a nursery and after seven days, they take root and begin growing.
- After about four weeks, the seedlings are taken from the nursery and moved to the transplantation beds.
- After about a month, the vegetables are ready for harvesting.
If you are interested in some fresh rape vegetables, then you can find Elizabeth’s uncle in Seke, Chitungwiza. The farm is located in Mayambara and you can stop by to order your fresh veggies. Alternatively, you can also go to Makoni Busines Center where he delivers his vegetables every Monday. In case you would like to call him or chat on WhatsApp, his phone number is +353 (0) 776 985 767
At the same time, he also offers more than just mature vegetables. He sells seedlings and is often contracted to come and help people plant their own crops. If you would like advice on how to grow the rape vegetable, please feel free to contact him.
It is important to note that there has been a recent push to re-popularize indigenous vegetables in Africa. Though the rape and covo plants are popular in Zimbabwe, they are not native to Africa. Just like cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower, these non-indigenous plants require a lot more tending and are susceptible to diseases. As a result, agricultural researchers are trying to encourage farmers to diversify and go back to traditional super-vegetables such as Amaranth, African nightshade (Solanum nigrum), and spiderleaf (Cleome gynandra). These vegetables are full of protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals, and in some cases, they pack more nutrients than kale and cabbage.
One of the main reasons why most people don’t consume these traditional veggies any more is that they have forgotten how to cook them. Some of them are laborious when it comes to preparation while others have to be cooked with sour milk, peanut paste and the like. At the end of the day, the main thing is to include a diverse range of vegetables in your diet.
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