Sub-Saharan Africa is home to an enormous variety of leafy vegetables, estimated to be between 800-1000 species. During the colonial era, African natives came to believe that their food traditions were inferior to the novelties that arrived with the colonial powers, and the knowledge of local vegetables waned in many communities. (1).
In Tanzania, the Regent Senior Women’s Group (RESEWO) has been working to promote the reintroduction of indigenous vegetables into the national diet, and in 2009 joined with Slow Food to create a cookbook featuring traditional recipes using forgotten vegetables, with the aim of encouraging more households to use these local varieties.
“With malnutrition continuing to be a problem across the country, we must realize that one of the key factors contributing to poor nutrition is low consumption of fruits and vegetables,” the book’s introduction explains. “Moreover, many nutritious traditional foods are ignored and are fast disappearing from Tanzanian meals”. Alongside the recipes, Cooking with Traditional Leafy Vegetables also provides an introduction to the vegetables’ growing areas, local names, traditional and medicinal uses, health and nutritional properties, preparation techniques as well as how to recognize, grow and preserve them.
“This information will be invaluable for all those who wish to discover the natural foods we have on our doorstep, to use them in our daily life, and assist Tanzanian communities to return to a more holistic approach to food. In this way, recipe books bring to life a collective heritage, and can practically help preserve products, producers and landscapes. The only food varieties that disappear are the ones that we no longer eat, so cooking them in an appetizing way ensures that they continue to be used.”
The cookbook has been published in English and Swahili, to be distributed free to schools, education establishments and local members of the Slow Food and Terra Madre network.
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