Spha Mabaso

The Ndlovu family were one of the original families to settle in Mpophomeni in the 1960’s.

Originally from Endiza, Curry’s Post, they were relocated to kwaZenzele, and then to Mpophomeni when Midmar was being built.  Despite their change in circumstances and the fact they had lost all their livestock, they kept farming and still today make use of a large plot to grow vegetables for themselves and fodder for their cattle.

cattle eating turnip

Spha Mabaso, who lives with his grandfather Baba Ndlovu (uMkhulu) in Mtholampilo Street is proud of the fact that his family were pioneer settlers in the area and is determined to continue the farming tradition.  Beside their kraal they have built an area for the whole community to bring their cattle for assistance with vaccinations and dipping. Sharing their knowledge and helping their neighbours is important for the Ndlovu and Mabaso families.

livestock maintenance

“We use the old methods, no artificial fertilizers or pesticides, so our products are all organic, they always have been. I am going to build a new empire.”

spha in veggie garden

Ever since he was a little boy, Spha has loved being in the garden. He followed his grandmother around as she sowed seed and harvested imifino, learning so much from her in the process.  uMkhulu Ndlovu spent much of his working life employed by Sarmcol and is an accomplished welder. He manufactured a playground of swings for his grandchildren. The workmanship is so good that some are still in the back yard – although Spha is getting a bit big to play on them!

Mkhulu and Spha Swing

Their homestead is a creative mish mash of metal work.   “A farmer can make anything,” uMkhulu beams, proudly showing off a watering can and a wheel barrow he made himself. There are fences made with discarded bed springs, a chicken house constructed high above the ground to keep predators out, and the most interesting gate in the entire street.

Ever creative and enthusiastic Spha is looking at ways of adding value to their produce. The old guava trees planted by his grandmother still produce delicious fruit.  While eating them fresh from the tree is first prize, the surplus is turned into fermented fruit juice and next season, there will be bottled and dried guavas in his product list too.

guavas

Spha is a regular at the Mpophomeni Farmers Market. His freshly picked turnip greens, amangoza, always sell out and he can’t keep up with the demand for his speckled sugar beans.

A market shoppers

Recently he introduced a new product – iced tea.  Made using leaves of the indigenous Athrixia phylicoides, which his grandfather calls itheye lentaba.  At first, he collected leaves from wild plants in the hills, but to ensure sustainability he has now planted a hedge of Athrixia aka Bushman’s Tea in his garden.  Twigs from this shrub are traditionally used to make hard brooms too.

athrixia phylicoides

What do his customers think of the tea?  “They love it!” he grins, “with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of mint, it is really refreshing.”

Spha iced tea

The Market happens just twice a month, so Spha is planning to set up a farmstall beside his garden and invite other small farmers to sell their produce there every day.  It is Mtholamphilo Street after all – so this is just where one would expect to find ways to improve one’s health!   At the moment, the ground is covered in rubbish as people dump here, but Spha is undaunted.  He will clean it up, build a stall using recycled timber off-cuts, plant a water wise garden and install his old swing for the neighbourhood children to play on.

Spha on stall site

Next, he plans to learn to make yoghurt and cheese from any excess milk in summer – first making sure that the calves get their fair share, of course.  “Local, organic produce is the way to go,”says Spha emphatically, “we need to support one another, make the most of what we have and work hard to improve food security.”

cow at fence

There are seeds drying on the window sill for next season, a nest filled with eggs about to hatch, and are a couple of pumpkins left from the Autumn harvest. The peach trees are bursting with blossoms, the sugar cane is ready for summer, the potatoes have been planted and the onions are sprouting.  This corner of the township is set to flourish. Without doubt, this is a space to watch.

Contact Spha at Emphare Organics 071 454 0323 sphamabaso@gmail.com

Mkhulu Spha watering can

 

 

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Enaleni Open Day

Exploring Enaleni Farm, small farmer Thembi Ngobese realised that she now knew what heaven would be like. This was it!

Richard Haigh has transformed a wattle infested 10ha near Camperdown into a Place of Agricultural Abundance – as the name Enaleni states in isiZulu. The farm celebrates the diversity of heritage breeds (many are indigenous) of domesticated animals with interesting histories and stories in South Africa. The mixed farming system of plants and animals present visitors with an opportunity to ponder the relationship between animals, plants and a non-industrialised approach to landuse and food production. Here you will find no herbicides, pesticides or anti-biotics and the animals are most definitely not mutilated (castrated or dehorned).

r bean sculpture and girls

“Few people know where or how the animals and vegetables they eat are farmed,” Richard told the enthusiastic group of small farmers and gardeners from the Midlands and greater Durban who attended the open day, “ours are raised with care, killed with respect and cooked with love.”  Apparently two species of domestic animal go extinct every week, which makes Richard’s work to preserve diversity particularly important.

r richard and rooster

The traditional multi-coloured Zulu maize ugatigati captured everyone’s imagination. While not originally from Africa, this maize has adapted to the soil and climate, and for the past 25 years, seed has been diligently saved to ensure that it has not been contaminated by commonly grown GMO maize.

r traditional maize

“If we grow some,” asked Inge Sciba, “how do we make sure that it does not cross pollinate with our neighbours’crop?” Richard suggested staggering planting times – if planted a month after the neighbour, there would be little chance of crossing.  At Enaleni, the maize is ground in a big old hand-grinder to produce delicious speckled polenta.

r maize meal

Enaleni is home to South Africa’s biggest herd of multi-coloured izimvu sheep, with their rasta hairstyles, tiny mouse-like ears and fat tails.  Over many centuries they have co-evolved with local conditions to have strong back legs that help them forage in small trees and have a high tolerance to tick-borne diseases and parasites. They have a unique flavour, much leaner than Karoo lamb.  Richard does not castrate the sheep, or dock their tails as is common practice amongst farmers.

r richard lamb group

Having read about Enaleni before visiting, Nhlakanipho Nzimande was keen to meet Marigold and Delilah who provide the farm with milk (shared, of course, with their calves).  He left inspired to add a few cows to his farming enterprise and learn how to make his own cheese. “It was a real eye-opener for me.” he said.

Spha Mabaso was so pleased that Richard’s cows were also Nguni /Jersey crosses and his method of hand milking and sharing was the same as his family practiced in Mpophomeni. “I’d love to bring my grandfather here.”

r meeting marigold

Richard turns this milk into delectable halloumi, ricotta, feta, maas and butter.  We were treated to the most delicious handmade ice-cream at lunch.  Neliswa Ntombela raved “I can’t wait to eat that fresh ice-cream again. It was the best I have ever tasted. I loved the guava wine and will be making some for myself. Richard was so friendly when we asked him questions and shared the ways of making all the food with us. He even knows all the names of the animals and vegetables in my language, isiZulu.”

r icecream pecan crisp

Among all the interesting varieties of fowl, Nhlakanipo and Neliswa were really taken with the “gigantic yellow” Buff Orpingtons.   At lunch, one of the dishes on offer was chicken pie – made from the Venda chickens.  Two breeds of turkeys live happily at Enaleni – American Mammoth Bronze and the Beltsville White.

r turkey

The spotted landrace Kolbroek pigs are believed to be descended from animals that swam ashore after a ship wreck in 1778.  At Enaleni they are farmed in a way that enables them to free range and free-farrow and express their natural behaviour. Their diet includes grasses, macadamia nuts, fruit, insects, maas /whey from the dairy cows and gmo-free grains grown right there. They thrive as a result.

r pigs

Enaleni reminded Christeen Grant of mountain villages in Lesotho – where everything has a reason to exist – the animals are all part of daily life, they and the crops are harvested in a sustainable way to ensure survival of the richest kind, uncontaminated by chemicals and organically produced. “Richard introduced us to his farm with justifiable pride. The pigs, sheep, cows, hens, turkeys and ducks were all happily going about their lives, the veggie garden flourishing even in winter. All were interconnected, mulch from the animals enriches the soil in the garden, and all are part of an ethically sustainable produce, which we sampled at lunch, scrumptious! Whilst showing us round the farm Richard explained that he could look us in the eye when he said he would be eating the livestock and their produce, that he used to be vegetarian. He can, because he farms with ethic, not greed. He is also generously happy to share seeds and information with others. Bathed in cool sunshine the aloes, veggie garden and animals glowed with vitality. A stunning example of how to live sustainably.”

r ntombenhle friend

Before lunch, Richard invited everyone into the ever-evolving vegetable garden to gather salad for lunch. Amongst the recognisable greens, some unusual varieties flourished and plenty of ‘weeds’ – nutritious wild greens known as imifino i isiZulu.

r collecting salad

The beautiful tunnel planted with Double Beans had many of us paying extra attention to create one of our own at home.

r pam and inge

The abundant broad beans looked healthy in the winter sun, but how on earth would Enaleni make use of all the beans they looked set to produce? “Why, falafel of course,” Richard told us, “fava beans are traditionally used for falafel.”

r richard broad beans

Clearly Richard is fascinated by relationships between plants – the tamarillo, cape gooseberry and pineapple sage growing beside one another all have the same region of origin, so naturally grow well together and taste fabulous when combined in dishes. Many tried a tree tomato for the first time and took some fruit home for seed to grow their own. The Enaleni orchard has avocado, macadamia, guava and olive trees too. Spha Mabaso loved all the new ideas to add value to the guavas he produces – dried strips and bottled in syrup. “The best part about Enaleni is that the crops that they produce are organic just like mine. I love the way he lets nature take its course and not to follow the standardized methods by commercial farmers.  I believe I still got a long way to go in terms of learning all the processing methods. The is so much I can learn from if I keep attending events like this – growing in terms of business and skills of production.”said Spha.

Oh, we just kept on learning and sharing all day!

r Sam and Carol

Enaleni is in a rain shadow belt – the transition zone between coastal and hinterland. Richard reminded us that edges, or transition zones, between two biomes are usually where the greatest diversity occurs.  They never have enough rainfall at Enaleni, but a slow and steady borehole and extensive use of grey water ensure that livestock and plant flourish.

r wheelbarrow

Enaleni grows soya and traditional grains (sorghum, millet, maize) that are certified GMO-free and save their own seed.  “Seeds are the backbone of agriculture, our investment in the future. There is no food sovereignty without seed security. Seed sovereignty is vital to Enaleni’s agroecological approach to food production.”  We all agreed.

r aloes and sorghum

Members of the Midlands Barter Markets and Mpophomeni gardeners shared seeds with new friends (as they regularly do). Those unused to trade without money, were a bit unsure when we accepted hugs in exchange for seeds, but soon got the hang of it!  Spha Mabaso brought fresh Speckled Beans, Thembi Ngobese a range of pretty beans she grows on her two hectares in Swayimani. Rose Kunhardt shared fascinating African Horned Cucumbers she had grown in Dargle.  Ntombenhle Mtambo shared fennel, chard and carrot seed from her township garden.

Christeen Grant shared seed originally from Lesotho and Nikki Brighton interesting varieties originally grown by rural farmers in Zululand – including Canavalia ensiformis, or jack bean. Known in isiZulu as the bean that causes flatulence – umadumanqeni!

r seeds

Over lunch on the veranda, plans were made to visit each other’s gardens, recipes and gardening stories were shared.  We feasted on pies of chicken or butternut and Jerusalem artichoke (using herbs and spices grown within sight) and a flower decked salad.  A visitor from Holland, Rosa Deen was delighted to have been invited.  “I love seeing how the sense of community grows at these kinds of events. Knowledge thrives when it is shared, not sold.”

r lunch

“Richard has worked tirelessly for 14 years to make the place a living dream for farmers and visitors. He is not a lazy person and will not fail. He works hard and reaps the fruit. The food and drinks were excellent – all made from fruits, vegetables, herbs grown on the farm. My body feels younger. Ngiyabonga kakhulu.” Thembi Ngobese enthused.

Carol Addis was entranced. “No warm winter day could have been spent in a more delightful and enlightening place than Enaleni Farm. Richard is passionate about eco agriculture, enhancing his property with natural aloes and beautiful vegetable gardens for animals, birds and swarms of insects to mix freely. He regrets the odd bit of bird netting to protect green crops from mouse birds and monkeys – this attitude to other beings is so refreshing. Richard is an inspiration – an absolute treat of slow food in a fast food world.”

r thembi george inge carol

Tutu Zuma loved the networking and meeting new people. Ntombenhle Mtambo was thrilled to find all three cook books that she is featured in on Richard’s coffee table!  “Richard is an example to us all – he respects, collects, saves, re-uses, protects, cares, nurtures and his animals walk freely. We saw evidence of what we need in our daily lives. I feel proud to be part of the Slow Food Mpophomeni team and show my colleagues this special place of plenty.” said Ntombenhle.

It was a truly splendid day of savouring new tastes, making new friends, sharing seeds and soaking up Richard’s wealth of knowledge.

r listening

Bruce Haynes concludes “As a young person growing up in the 21st century, experiencing a farm that can cook up three-course meals using only ingredients from with a 350m radium of the kitchen was nothing short of magical. Richard’s relationship with the organic farm-system he has created, and his pragmatic compassion for his animals, models a way forward for all of us seeking to live more wisely and fully on this planet.”

r bruce spha

Richard Haigh hosts lunches using only ingredients grown at Enaleni on the first Sunday of each month – Eataleni – which are delicious and inspiring.   See Enaleni Farm on Facebook for details or call: 0828722049. You are very likely to make a new friend too.

r nhlaka and inge

Sibuyisela Ulwazi

Mnandi was honoured to be invited to participate in the Biowatch SA Siybuyisela ulwazi Food and Seed Festival last week.   We sold many recipe books, made great connections, shared stories and seeds, and learnt a lot.  Biowatch SA organised the festival to celebrate the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas and explore innovations in support of food sovereignity, social and environmental justice.

stalls

Presentations about all the things we are passionate about were by inspiring and knowledgeable people. There were talks of seed and African spirituality, the Food Price barometer, GMOs, Climate Smart Agriculture (not so smart), the benefits of fermentation, Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, beautiful music made from the humble calabash and a myriad of food activists to connect with.   Legendary Permaculturalist John Nzira asked “What is the difference between seeds and money?”  Amongst all these seed savers and defenders of our food diversity the answer was unanimous – seeds hold our future. The diversity of seeds is the key to life. Phansi GMOs Phansi!

The climate-friendly vegetarian lunches were superb and we also got to taste traditional umqombothi and umqusho, peanut soup, sorghum, celery and apple salad and too many other things to mention.  Ntombenhle Mntambo shared her fantastic Rainbow Salad (all ingredients grown in her Mpophomeni garden) and talked about healthy eating.

Ntombenhle salad

We were proud to share the kitchen with author and dietician, Mpho Tshukudu. She inspired us with her talk African Food is Healthy, Beautiful and Delicious, singing the praises of our heritage foods (naturally low GI) and sharing new ways of preparing them.  Her book with Anna Trapido – Eat Ting is very interesting.

Mpho chopping

Agro-Ecological Farmer and activist Richard Haigh talked about the way Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Forager and Wild Food Champion Loubie Rusch shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens.  Gogo Qho followed with a passionate presentation about wild plants that are her food and medicine, the importance of traditional and indigenous food culture and the value of leafy greens for good health.

The festival truly celebrated the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures and advocated for a just and healthy food system. 

Pacsa seeds delwyn pillay

Comments from our group:

Nathi Adam – It was a fruitful day. The pure seeds and food displays, prepared by passionate people were amazing and all the talks were inspiring. I learned and saw the Earth differently after the talks. The food tastings were wow!

Traditional music goes well with traditional food prepared by people who care about what they eat. I was taken aback to see people enjoying themselves in this way. I loved talking to Sazi Dlamini and networking with many others.

It was saddening to realise that industrial agriculture is killing our earth. I learned that we need to put more effort into educating and assisting one another to take serious care of ourselves and our mother Earth, in order to realise better health and wealth in the Permaculutre way.  We have plenty of natural resources in Africa, but we should not misuse and abuse them. People Care plus Earth Care equals plenty for us and our children and their children.

Zandile Sikhakane – I learned a lot about seed and food that keeps us healthy. I took note of the importance of preserving our seeds, so we do not have to buy more.  Everyone who presented explained very well and answered the questions well. My favourite guest was John Nzira. He inspired me a lot about our food culture and urban farming. I was so happy to see Sazi Dlamini playing music out of the food we eat. I learnt how to plant sweet potatoes.

Ntombenhle, sanele, mary

Njabulo Mokoena – I enjoyed talking to different kinds of people in different languages. I learnt a lot from farmers like John Nzira and that if you respect nature, it will respect you back. I tasted food that was very delicious. There was African traditional food that I have never eaten before – like amabele.  I was so inspired by the farmers, that the day afterwards, I started a small garden at home. It was a beautiful event.

Mary Mlambo – I met many wonderful people, especially John Nzira. He spoke about how the love of money overpowers our love for seeds and nature that actually gives us life. “We can throw money on the ground and it won’t grow, but throw seeds on the ground and watch them grow into food.” That gave me a lot of motivation. I was thrilled to taste delicious indigenous foods that were prepared with so much love. I even got iHali, a very rare fruit I have not seen since I was a young girl. I had fun.

Mary Mlambo food is medicine

Eidin Griffin – I felt deeply honoured to be amongst such incredible earth workers and ethical food producers. Meeting the farmers from Pongola, Matubatuba and Lesotho was a profound privilege and I was able to trade seeds, shake hands and we could communicate in our special language of seeds rather than a common tongue. Grand gesticulation and a great amount of laughter helped too! Tasting foods created with love and looking at ways to nourish ourselves and our food supply really got my brain and heart excited. I truly hope that this is the start of an incredible annual event and I will share the new information that I gleaned (yes, good word indeed) and plant my new-found seed friends in the soil and nurture them as best I can and hope to return, wiser and stronger with more abundance to share next year.

Nhlakanipho Nzimande – My experience was good, I made many connections with conscious farmers. I learnt about healing herbs and plants and I invited a Khoisan man Q, to visit and perhaps we can work together. I learnt how to build and use musical instruments from Sazi Dlamini. I got cuttings of different plants and different types of seeds. I may go into strawberry production with the lady who sells homemade jams.

Mnandi Heroes Nhlakanipho and Eidin

Ntombenhle Mntambo – Sibuyisela ulwazi was great – food, talks, tastings and meeting people closely. My wish is that we all meet each other as one.  Languge issue is always a problem. I wish Richard, Mpho, John, Loubie could speak isiZulu because the translating of their talks was not that good, it only gave half the information and some people when they get home will say there was not enough information because they did not understand English. I wish the translator had finished everything that was said. The questions are important because it helps those that did not hear correctly to understand better. It was too fast, we need more days – how about 5? It was a very good event.

Xola Keswa – It was a festival which I feel should have happened a long time ago, but I am glad it has happened at last. It included people from all walks of life – from Zululand to the green forested South Coast. Food activists to environmental activists and many gardeners and farmers – a mixture of aware people, with everyone knowing something about what was spoken about from traditional food to traditional music, food tasting and activist talks. Richard Haigh from Enaleni shared his extensive knowledge and food. John Nzira, permaculture guru, was one of the main speakers. He has an incredible record for experience with transforming land into fully productive agroforestry. Environmental activist Method Gundidiza represented Sheila Berry’s Earthlore organisation – the man from Swaziland had a lot of strong words to say. Words that I think that have stained themselves on the minds of many who were there.

xola maya

Pinky Dlamini – I had an amazing day. The surprise of my life was the love, caring and communication. I learn about food that I had never heard of. Like one big nation we all eat together. I find friends from different areas- Venda, Cape Town – all these people talking about different things that can shape our lives and our cultures. I think it is up to us to tell people in Mpophomeni what we are doing and how to improve their lives.

Thabani Mnikathi – I enjoyed being around such loving people and seeing people from different parts of the country coming together to share information and life experiences.  I learnt a lot about different cultures, music, food, how to grow food, keep yourself healthy.  The food was delicious – colourful and exciting – a whole new experience.  What is best is that you never knew what to expect. Sibuyisela ulwazi has inspired me to try to make my own personal garden and try some home grown food for a change.

Nikki Brighton – It was marvellous to meet new people as passionate about food as we are and reconnect with fellow food activists. The variety of presentations was exceptional – something for everyone and all contributing towards the goal of food sovereignty.  In particular, I enjoyed the presentation by Richard Haigh who talked about how Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Also enjoyed Loubie Rusch, who shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens. Gogo Qho’s passionate presentation about the plants that are her food and medicine was enchanting and very informative. I found it interesting to learn that Climate Smart Agriculture is not so smart. Meeting the small rural farmers who had brought seeds to share and sell added a real depth to the festival.  I stocked up on all sorts of interesting ideas and ingredients – millet, sorghum, pulses to eat and plant.

local seed

Ntombenhle and Nikki agreed that this was more fun than the Slow Food Terra del Madre event they attended in Italy last year! We could make real connections, learn things that were appropriate to our world and contribute in a more meaningful way. Well done Biowatch SA.

Ntombenhle dancing

 

Our Food Heritage

Seasonal eating is not a new concept, although it is trendy right now. Our ancestors foraged and hunted – following the rains, the fruiting trees and the animal migrations. The first agriculturalists to settle in one place and cultivate crops, ate what was in season too.

r picking imbuya - amaranthus

Culture and food are interwoven across the world, with locally abundant ingredients determining the tastes that we prefer.  In South Africa, where only recently many people have become urbanised, food memories are largely influenced by rural life – hearty, satisfying food.  Mostly home grown, but including easy to store staples enhanced by an array of cultivated and wild greens.  Urbanisation and new wealth have caused many to abandon the simple nutritious food of our childhoods in favour of the artificially flavoured ‘modern’ food.

In the process of abandoning foraged ingredients, our diets have become impoverished. There is a perception that wild greens are ‘poor people’s food’ – around here we call them imifino, while in other places around South Africa, marogo is the common word to describe all manner of leafy greens. They are, in fact, jam packed with nutrients, often far surpassing that of more commonly eaten leafy greens like Swiss Chard and cabbage.

r leaf selection

Across the globe, many communities seek out the new growth of wild greens in Spring and Summer – a delicacy long awaited through the colder months in Europe. There is a great revival of the popularity of indigenous greens in East Africa. Now sold in large supermarkets, served in restaurants in Nairobi, and Kenyan farmers have increased the area planted with these greens by 25% since 2011.

Amaranthus is one of the most common greens and grows profusely in poor soils requiring little watering or attention. There are many varieties – green or red, tall or creeping.  It is versatile and can be used wherever greens are called for in a recipe.   Amaranthus leaves have heaps more Vitamin C than cabbage or chard – just 50g contains 100% of our daily needs.  The leaves are rich in protein, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, carbohydrates and fibre. Leaves are frequently dried and stored for winter use.  Seeds contain more protein than most other grains. Amaranthus is most often eaten with mielie meal, as a relish, but young leaves are great in salads, perfect to add to soups and stews or blend into your favourite juice mix.

amaranthus in sack

Isijabane is a great way to use imfino and a clever way of including greens in a dish for children who are picky eaters. While people usually use easy to find imbuya (or spinach), according to the community elders the very best imifino to use for isijabane is msobo (Solanum nigrum) and intshungu (Momordica balsamina) Pictured belowThese add a bitter taste and are perfect.  

  • 500g mixed greens
  • 1 or 2 chopped shallots or spring onions
  • 500g maize meal
  • ½ tsp salt

Cook the greens, chopped shallots and salt in a little water.

Once the greens are cooked (5-7 minutes) sprinkle dry maize meal into the pot and stir as it absorbs the water. Add a little more maize meal and keep stirring for ten minutes over a low heat.

The finished dish should be very green and have a soft porridge consistency.

If you really don’t like the idea of all that stirring you can cheat by cooking a soft maize meal separately and then adding it to the cooked imifino.  Or even using instant mealie meal or polenta.

This recipe is included in Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni, along with many other varieties of imifino and ideas on how to use them.

What memories do you have of your grandmother cooking wild greens and weeds?

flower intshungu.JPG
intshungu – Momordica balsamina

imbuya

Amaranth is abundant right now as Autumn sets in.

Across the globe, many communities seek out the new growth of wild greens in Spring and Summer – a delicacy long awaited through the colder months in Europe. There is a great revival of the popularity of ‘indigenous’ greens in East Africa. Now sold in large supermarkets, served in restaurants in Nairobi, and Kenyan farmers have increased the area planted with these greens by 25% since 2011.

r-red-amaranthus-2

Around here we call them imifino. In other places around South Africa, marogo is the common word to describe all manner of leafy greens. Jam packed with nutrients, often far surpassing that of more commonly eaten leafy greens like Swiss Chard and Cabbage. In Mpophomeni imifino is most often eaten with mielie meal, as a relish, but young leaves are great in salads, perfect to add to soups and stews or blend into your favourite juice mix.

Amaranth Amaranthus hybridus is one of the most popular greens, it grows profusely in poor soils requiring little watering or attention. There are many varieties – green or red, tall or creeping.  It is versatile and can be used wherever greens are called for in a recipe. Young leaves can be chopped into salad.

r-tall-red-amaranthus

Amaranthus leaves have heaps more Vitamin C than cabbage or chard – just 50g contains 100% of our daily needs.  The leaves are rich in protein, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, carbohydrates and fibre. Leaves are frequently dried and stored for winter use.  Seeds contain more protein than most other grains.

r-red-amaranthus-seed

Isijabane 

This is a popular way of using imfino.  While people often substitute easy to find imbuya these days (or even spinach), the very best imifino to use for isijabane is msobo and intshungu. These add a bitter taste and are perfect.

  • 500g greens
  • 1 or 2 chopped shallots or spring onions
  • 500g maize meal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Cook the greens, chopped shallots and salt in a little water
  • Once the greens are cooked (5-7 minutes) sprinkle dry maize meal into the pot and stir as it absorbs the water. Add a little more maize meal and keep stirring for ten minutes over a low heat.
  • The finished dish should be very green and a soft porridge consistency.

If you really don’t like the idea of all that stirring you can cheat by cooking a little soft maize meal separately and then adding it to the cooked imifino.

r-amaranthus-seed-hand

Mary Kleinenberg’s  Crustless Quiche

  • 1 ½ cups of green Amaranthus leaves
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Chopper fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheese grated

Steam the leaves until tender, drain and chop. Lightly fry onion and garlic, add mushrooms for about 5 minutes (do not overcook) Then add cheese. Arrange spinach and mushroom mix alternatively in a buttered pie dish.  Beat eggs and milk, add chopped coriander, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over vegetables in the pie dish. Bake at 200C for about 35 minutes, until set and brown. Serve hot or cold.

r-wild-weed-green-soup

Nikki Brighton’s Wild Green Soup

Make the most of all the greens that are abundant now in late summer. If you are lucky some of your dried beans will be ready to harvest and make this an absolute feast.

  • 500g fresh borlotti, cannellini or haricot beans – cooked. You can use dried, it is just more splendid with fresh, home grown beans!
  • 2-4 red or white onions – chopped
  • 1 head of celery – chopped – leaves reserved
  • 1 head garlic – sliced
  • 500g Swiss Chard – stalks and leaves chopped
  • 1 bunch each basil, mint, marjoram, flat leaf parsley
  • 2 kgs of tomatoes (use fresh if you can find those plum/jam tomatoes, or have masses of cherry tomatoes in your garden, otherwise use tins)
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Lots different sorts of leaves including borage, young black jack, amaranthus, lettuce, beetroot and whatever you have handy
  • 1 fresh red chilli

Heat oil, fry onion and celery stalks gently until softened and brown. Add garlic, chard stalks, chilli and continue to cook until garlic starts to brown, then add half the basil, mint, marjoram and parsley and celery leaves. Gently fry to combine herbs, then add chopped tomatoes. Season and simmer for 30 minutes so the tomatoes reduce with the vegetables. Then add the rest of the leaves and the beans. Cook to combine – not very long so as to retain some of the vibrant green colour. Consistency should be very thick. Add water to thin if you like. Drizzle with olive oil.

We should all be planting and eating this vegetable. 

Amaranthus and a selection of other edible weeds is included in the imifino section of Mnandi – A Taste of Mpophomeni. Order a copy from mnandisales@cowfriend.co.za

Join Sthembile and Ntombenhle for a taste of imbuya and other leafy greens at lunch in the garden – Handmade lasagne, ijece, imifino, salad, veggie stew and cordial.

  • Cost: R100
  • Date: Friday 10 March, Sunday 9 April or Friday 12 May
  • Time: 12h00
  • Venue: Mpophomeni Garden on Mhlongo Road
  • RSVP: Ntombenhle 063 410 4697 Sthembile 079 153 3748

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Vote With Your Fork

When we emerged from the underground station into sunlit Piazza Duomo, Ntombenhle exclaimed “I feel like I am on TV!”  The spires of the magnificent cathedral, thronged by colourful crowds and the buskers playing in each corner of the square was our first taste of Italy. Milan is not a bad place to start.

duomo-square

Ntombenhle and Nikki were part of the South African delegation to the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto event, organized across the city – the 11th such event to bring together food activists and producers from across the globe to learn and share.  For five days, Turin became the cultural capital of global food biodiversity.

We began with a couple of days in Milan to acclimatise.  Trundling bags to Ostello Bello Hostel along streets bustling with pedestrians, trams and scooters.

A friendly welcome awaited us – cold drinks, free wifi, delicious food and a lovely view from our window.  We hung out on the roof terrace planted with herbs and veggies and thought about cooking our own supper from the array of Italian ingredients provided in the adjacent kitchen. No, we would spend our time exploring and let them do the cooking!

ostello-bello-street

When Ntombenhle and Penz visited Cape Town earlier this year, they loved the Hop on Hop off Bus tours, so we hopped on and off in Milan too. What a beautiful city!   Our favourite things were the millions of chimneys on top of the buildings and the ornate balconies clinging to the sides.

We stopped off at a park for a picnic lunch and in the late afternoon, explored the canalside Navigli area. It was very hot, so ice cream (gelato in Italian) was welcome.

navigli-milan

Two days later, we caught the train from the impressive Milan Central Station – where a giant apple sculpture got us in the food mood. From the train window we noticed how every scrap of land was being cultivated – right up to the rivers, roads and houses. There were crops and fruit trees everywhere.

milan-station-apple-sculture

Bound for Turin to join the seven thousand delegates from 143 countries, 300 Slow Food Presidia and 1000 food communities of the Terra Madre network from five continents –  representing a humanity that is united to discuss the great challenges which we must confront, above all the safeguarding of agricultural biodiversity, raising awareness and creating positive energy towards the objective of Slow Food: good, clean and fair food for all.

terra-madre-by-alessandro-vargiu-archivio-slowfood

Photo by Alessandro Vargiu from the Slow Food archive

There were about 400 delegates from Africa and 40 South Africans.  We all took turns manning the popular SA stand where we showcased hand harvested Baleni Salt, Rooibos tea, Marula Jam, Aloe honey, Zulu Sheep and Raw Milk Cheese.

sa-stand

Slow Food organised our accommodation with local SF members. Ntombenhle and Nikki stayed with the Bottignol/Farinetti family in Monticello d’Alba a couple of hours outside of Turin. They had a small ‘farm’ with extensive veggie gardens, lots of fruit trees, one donkey, one goat and a couple of chickens. We had lots in common with them (besides language!). They were caring and considerate hosts and we will be friends forever.

francas-table

Trying to decide what event to attend or where to begin exploring the hundreds of stalls was a challenge. As we were in the Africa section, we started there – feeling right at home amongst our colourful neighbours. “I never thought I would see these things with my own eyes,” commented Ntombenhle, “the different foods, the national dress, listening to the foreign languages. It was amazing.”

africa-and-europe

Naturally, Ethiopia had Forest Wild Coffee, Guinea Bissau – Farim Salt, Cape Verde showcased Raw Milk Goat Cheeses, Egypt the Siwa Oasis Dates.   Kenya had a wide range of products, including Ogiek Honey and Dried Nettles from the Mau Forest, Nzoia River Reed Salt, Pokot Ash yogurt and Lare Pumpkin.  From Madagascar – Alaotra Lake Ancient Rice Varieties and the Mananara Vanilla.  Marocco’s exhibition area showcased Argan Oil, Alnif Cumin, Zerradoun Salt, and Taliouine Saffron. Mauritania was represented by the Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo. The Ibo Coffee Presidium from Mozambique wants to safeguard Ibo island’s unique ecosystem where the plant still grows wild. São Tomé and Príncipe brought Robusta Coffee. From Senegal, Fadiouth Island Salted Millet Couscous – which preserves an ancient, traditional and original production line that links the earth with the sea. Sierra Leone had the Kenema Kola Nut used in drinks, Uganda showcased Luwero Robusta Coffee, the indigenous Kayinja Banana, the Climbing Yam and the Ankole Long-Horned Cattle, Tanzania the Arusha Stingless Bee Honey which is collected by a small group of beekeepers from traditional hives made from hollow tree trunk sections and hung from the roofs of houses, fences or the highest branches of fruit trees like mango, avocado and papaya.

african-traditional-dress

One hot afternoon, we kicked off our shoes with new friends from Lesotho – Mirriam and Ma-Lord.  They had produced a book of traditional food, so we had plenty in common and proudly showed off Mnandi. One of the Russian delegates we had met earlier joined us and we shared the last of the cherry brandy that she was promoting!

nikki-ma-lord-ntombenhle-mirriam

Without a doubt, connecting with like-minded people was the highlight.  We were even excited to meet the other South Africans as their stories and projects were intriguing too. Representatives from rural Limpopo, to hip-and-happening Khayelitsha, from the West Coast fisheries to the inspiring food events of Soweto, inner city gardening projects, markets, indigenous food processing, foraging and free range farming.  A vibrant and diverse bunch.

john-themba-lindelani

We attended workshops on all sorts of topics hosted by the Indigenous Terra Madre network. Particularly memorable was How Indigenous Food Systems Can Inspire Solutions. When it comes to global challenges such as climate change and global hunger, indigenous food systems are seldom considered. “Indigenous people are breeders of biodiversity – keen observers of nature and good innovators” said someone on the inspiring panel (made up of representatives from India, Philippines, Japan, Nigeria, Equador). The agroecological approach is just starting to be known in the Western world, while indigenous peoples have been using sustainable methods for centuries. Conclusion: “Who should really adapt?  Local indigenous systems or the modern commercial ones?”

terra-madre-panel

In the European section, our tastebuds tingled as we tasted strange micro greens and unusual herbs and flowers – purple yka leaves, sechuan buttons, salty fingers, sea fennel and oyster leaves, – produced in Holland.

micro-greens

We smelled, tasted and learnt about raw milk cheeses from Ireland, Czech artisan beer, Spanish saffron, Macedonian peppers and Albania Olive oil. We were astonished at how much cheese there was.

ntombenhle-cheese

We made friends with Palestinians and Iranians on our daily bus trips from the conference back to the village of Monticello d’Alba where we stayed. One day, Ntombenhle struck up a conversation with the folk in the Lebanon stand and swopped a copy of Mnandi for their gorgeous book Mezze – a Labour of Love, featuring traditional Lebanese food, produced by TV presenter and food activist Barabara Abdeni Massaad. This interaction epitomised the generosity and sharing of the event.

mezzeThe local branch of Slow Food organised evening entertainment for us (although we would have happily gone straight to bed!). On Heritage Day they provided an all local supper, with traditional music and dancing in a village hall. We sang Nkosi sikelel’iAfrica and Shosholoza as a thank you.  On another occasion we enjoyed pizza in the Alba town square, entertained by the wonderful CoroMoro – a group made up of asylum seekers from across Africa who live in the valleys of Piedmont.

ntombenhle-and-naudeNikki was among the first to be seated at the Wild Edibles presentation and workshop.  It began with a short video entitled Forest to Fork which illustrated how common food creates social cohesion, how the act of going out in a group to gather food and prepare food are essential components of strong communities.

20160923_134111A representative of the Bibomen Tribe from South Western Australia talked about the six seasons in her culture, the 150 indigenous tubers she knows to eat, the tragedy of the pioneer practice of removing deep rooted trees which dropped the water table and allowed the salt to rise to the surface creating barren landscapes. She also warned of the issue of wild food becoming trendy and the decimation which can follow. A couple from Chile talked about their indigenous fruits and battles with multi-national land grabbing; a Japanese woman suggested the reason we were gathered here was because women carry the information in our bodies that is part of the earth; a Kenyan man spoke about the effect climate change was having in his country. An activist from a Central Canadian tribe began with a prayer honouring the ancestors whom she believed were with us in this group. She spoke sadly of the elimination of bison (80% of the prairies are now gone), and the degradation of her people and more positively, about the hope her workshops on creation stories and indigenous food gardening gives to young first nation people.

sage-hazelnuts-applesThe Asian section was very unusual and much of the packaging was outstanding.   Nikki tasted shiso rice with wild mushrooms at the Japanese stand and Omiki – a fermented rice and sweet potato drink made by Shamans from Yuku Island.  The Philippines had a wide variety of food, but the most exciting find was Adlai – Coix lacryma-jobi.  Turns out that this is what we call Job’s Tears in South Africa (the grey seeds used in Zulu tradition for teething rings or, now popular as beaded necklaces).  “It tasted pretty good,” commented Nikki, tucking into a bowl served with kernels of corn, adding “they were excited to hear that it grew in South Africa too – albeit invading our wetlands.”  Besides being a substitute for maize and rice, it was also fed to livestock.

img_1328The strong, successful women on the panel of the session on Women’s Roles in Farming was inspiring. Quietly, the woman from Bukina Faso told how in her culture a woman must work four days in her husband’s fields and only one day in her own garden. She told of the circles women have started, to sing their seed songs and grow strong and how they are starting to teach men about their role in supporting women.

An Indonesian woman spoke of her work to promote entrepreneurship to ensure that not only did farmers have enough to eat but extra from cash crops too. She was proud to have contributed to keeping Indonesian products alive by adding value and creating export markets. A Spanish woman related her struggles to overcome patriarchy, how she broke with tradition to become the first woman to run the family farm. “Female energy is good. I feel deep love when I wake up in the morning and see my land. We do not have to exploit; we can have respect and balance.  We can fight together for change, rather than compete.”

women-in-agricultureLate one afternoon thousands of people gathered at the corner of Corso Cairoli and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to march along the River Po, through the centre of Turin. This was an exciting and energising experience to be among thousands of people, many dressed in traditional costumes, waving national flags and bearing banners with universal messages that we all believed in. Save Biodiversity.  Vote with Your Fork.  They are Giants but We are Millions (referring to the power of the agricultural and food multinationals). There were marching bands amongst the crowds – we were fortunate to be just behind a particularly cool one and thoroughly enjoyed the music!

south-african-group-terra-madre-marchAlong the way we met giant non-gmo corn cobs.  The groups from South America were exceptionally vibrant and showed off a wide range of products – including chocolate, chillies, corn and pumpkins at their stand – when they weren’t making music!

At the end of the march we swopped small gifts of food from home with strangers. Carlo Petrini, charismatic President of Slow Food, welcomed us a Protectors of Biodiversity.  His message “We are a brotherhood, learn instead of only teaching. Give back to others, particularly to refugees and those affected by colonisation, share what we have.”  It was incredible to hear how people across the planet face similar struggles and feel just as passionate about good food produced without harm.

carlo-petriniWe loved an inspiring workshop on Women as Seed Keepers – safeguarding food and culture.  We learnt of many cooperatives and associations made up entirely of women (farmers, fishermen, chefs) We heard experiences from Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, where governmental bodies, along with citizens and small-scale farmers, have chosen to promote policies and actions aimed at safeguarding biodiversity. Agro-ecological farming, small scale farming and Nature farming was talked about a lot, but much to Ntombenhle’s chagrin, Permaculture was seldom mentioned, even though that was what was often meant.  She pointed out to the facilitators that many of the audience understood permaculture principles, so it would be a good idea to use familiar terms rather than confusing ones.

20160923_134111The volunteers working in the delegates canteen served delicious, good, clean, fair food every day. The long tables were a gathering place for animated conversation as we met new people, shared the day’s highlights and tasted new things – barley and farro salad, couscous, carrot soup, pasta with pesto or tomatoes or chicken, cured meat and cheese, fruit, bread and so much more.

farro-saladYou never knew if you would sit beside Egyptians or Australians or make a new friend. Ntombenhle met an Indian woman who told her – ‘Don’t make excuses, know your value, it is your business, you can do it.’  Nikki recalls a conversation with an American woman who ran an event catering business which focussed on food that incorporated the various needs of religious customs, food allergies, lifestyle preferences and medical conditions without making anyone feel uncomfortable or odd.

canteenValentino Park is beautiful. A magnificent location for such an important event.  Squirrels scampered on the lawns amongst those taking a break from the frenzy of the stalls and conferences.  It provided a sociable space to escape to, but usually with meaningful conversation. Ntombenhle used the opportunity to spread her “mulch, mulch, mulch” message when chatting to others who thought mulching made the garden look untidy!

valentino-parkNikki met vegan activists from England, hearing how the movement is growing rapidly and learning how they get their message across creatively. There was an entire Slow Meat section, where farmers, butchers, chefs, consumers discussed the consequences of exploding meat consumption on the planet. “Eat less meat of better quality” was the message.

On the banks of the River Po, the Slow Fish Tent was fascinating as commercial and small scale fishers from across the globe discussed ways of making fishing sustainable. Ideas clashed occasionally. Here we met the delightful singer and activist Olga del Madagascar.

ntombenhle-and-olga-de-madagascar

Terra Madre was the most incredible experience, not least because we learnt that common language is not the most important thing in communication – hugs, nods, smiles and hand gestures go a long way!  Carlo Petrini suggested that the greatest gift we would take from Terra Madre was recognising the value of others and seeing the pride of the farmers.  That is absolutely true.

We were not able to see or experience everything – not even close. The event was enormous and apparently, almost a million people attended over the five days.  These photos and words capture just a tiny part. Visit the Slow Food Terra Madre site to view incredible photos which illustrate the event so much more effectively than this article.   You can also read Nikki’s personal account of her trip to Italy here.

Do join us in Ntombenhle’s garden on Saturday 10 December as we celebrate Terra Madre Day with our new friends from across the world.  11am. Bring home grown, homemade, local, organic food to share. Perhaps your favourite Mnandi recipe?

ntombenhle-snail

A Taste of Mpophomeni

Our cookbook, Mnandi

has just been printed and is available in the garden! Publication is sponsored by N3 Toll Concession. All money from sales is going to MCG projects – we are dreaming up some amazing things. It is very exciting.  Download a taste – Mnandi Teaser

mnandi-cover-no-p

In Mpophomeni, joy is a fundamental part of living. Here food is grown from the heart, meals are meant to be shared and stories are told with pride.  In this book of fresh garden food, the people with their hands in the soil and their creative customers share their delight in seasonal produce.  Ardent supporter of MCG, writer Nikki Brighton, has captured the colours and flavours – celebrating community and the environment.

spring

Savour Sthembile’s handmade lasagne with just picked spinach, try Tutu’s sun-cooked rhubarb stew and make Ntombenhle’s famous vetkoek or her favourite crunchy fennel and orange salad.  Customer at the Mpophomeni Community Garden, Caroline Bruce, Oaklands County Manor, shares her recipe for Sauerkraut while Kate Chanthunya of Rondavel Soap shows us how to make a salad dressing using maas.  The imifino (wild greens) section will encourage you to take a whole new look at the abundant greenery in your veggie beds.  Need a recipe to deter pests or boost your immune system? Passionate gardener Tutu Zuma says “My food forest and medicinal plant garden keeps me strong and healthy. I have never been hungry – I eat green food throughout winter.”

r bunch carrots

Anna Trapido, author of Hunger for Freedom – the story of food in the life of Nelson Mandela: ““We are what we grow, cook and eat. Mpophomeni’s gardeners and cooks are an example of what South Africa can and should be. Through the pages of this delightful book readers will come to love and admire a remarkable and resilient community. The recipes so generously offered are not only delicious but also inspiring and insightful – each one allows a reader to taste a piece of the story.”

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Ntombenhle Mtambo, garden inspiration, is adamant that eating more plants is good for you. “Food is your doctor – the vitamins and minerals found in plants help prevent illness and promote healing. These recipes are ideal for people who want to eliminate meat from their diet for health reasons or are trying to balance their budget.”

Ntombenhle Mtambo by Toby Murphy

“The gardeners of Mpophomeni are quite simply amazing. We are thrilled that this ‘foodie’ dream of a locally-inspired recipe book has become a reality. It has been a privilege to watch this community garden project grow thanks to these gardeners who epitomise true passion for, and commitment to, growing organic produce that tastes absolutely delicious.”  Thandiwe Rakale N3TC

Mpop sept 2015 259

We hope that Mnandi (which translates as ‘tasty’) will inspire you to take part in the magical process of growing and preparing food that is good for you and good for the planet too.  Available at plenty of shops – ask about one near to you, or order here: mnandisales@cowfriend.co.za

Keen to visit us in the garden?  Join our Vetkoek Fridays – enjoy a garden tour and delicious lunch of fresh vetkoek filled with bom bom beans and rainbow salad for only R50 per person.

  • 1 Decmber 2017 11.30am
  • 15 December 2017 11.30am

Phone Ntombenhle to book: 063 410 4697

Vetkoek poster no date

 

SunStove

Who would have imagined that solar cooking could be addictive? This may be surprising, but is true. It’s great fun and astonishingly easy to do. Sunny Winter days are perfect to put out the SunStove and boil water for tea and washing, harnessing the inexhaustible and free power of the sun. While a solar cooker works best in clear weather, a few clouds will not affect the cooking.

r sunstove

The SunStove cooks rice perfectly, manages a whole chicken, hard boiled eggs, baked potatoes, stews and bread too. Not much water needs to be added, and nothing evaporates, so all nutrients are retained. Cooking with a SunStove means you spend less time ‘standing over a hot stove’ as once you have put your food in the black, lidded pot and placed in the box, it looks after itself and can’t burn. For best results, preheat your oven and move so that it directly faces the sun a couple of times. Or if you are busy, simply prepare your food early before you go out, aim your SunStove in the direction of the midday sun and come home to a delicious, warm meal!

r lasagne sunstove

“I made such a nice green soup the other day – using all the little bits in the garden and I added some leftover cooked white beans. It was delicious, everyone was amazed. The SunStove does not overcook the veggies – it will cook slowly and gently.” Ntombenhle Mtambo.

We share the following recipes that feature in our book: Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni.  

r butternut stew in the sunstove

Sun Stewed Rhubarb

  • 8 stems, chopped
  • ½ cup sugar

Place in a pot in your Sunstove for the day while you potter about in the garden (or boil on the stove until tender). Lovely with ice cream and the syrup is delicious too.

Karen Zunckel’s Solar Bread

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 350 ml warm water
  • 500 g Champagne Valley Stoneground Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75 g mixed seeds

Mix yeast & sugar with half the warm water. Leave it in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble.

Mix flour, seeds and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture, the oil, and the remaining water, and mix well.

Put a little flour in your hands and dust the work surface too, and kneed the dough for 10 minutes, until it’s smooth.

Place the dough in the large mixing bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Put it in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the SunStove by placing a black pot or brick in it and positioning it to face the 10am sun. (Plan to start cooking at 10am).

Push your fist into the dough to knock some of the air out of it. Then knead it for another 5 minutes.

Put the dough into a greased loaf tin. Leave it in a warm place for another 10 minutes to rise. Cut diagonally with a sharp knife so that the crust doesn’t separate from the loaf. Brush it with the egg and top with seeds.

Then bake, turning the SunStove every half hour to face the sun.

Cook until a toothpick comes out clean, about 2 hours in summer or 4 hours in winter.

bread in solar oven

You can order locally made SunStoves (and insulated box with a clear top and reflective sides which can be hung up when not in use) from the PlanetPellet hut in the Community Garden, or from sunstove@iafrica.com.  You can order Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni  from mnandisales@cowfriend.co.za

Imbozisi – Fennel

In the community garden, children love to nibble on fennel flowers and seeds – so much better than the garishly coloured sweets available from the spaza shop nearby.

fennelFennel is at it’s best in winter.  Everything about fennel is beautiful – the delicate feathery fronds, the fat bulbs, the scent, the sweet aniseed flavour, the yellow flowerheads (so pretty in salads), the fragrant seeds with many uses.

We are harvesting in the garden now if you want to stop by and get some. Interestingly, according to many companion planting guides, other vegetables dislike growing near fennel – but they don’t seem to be bothered by fennel in Mpophomeni!

fennel mpop 121

Known as Imbozisi in isiZulu, it is used in traditional medicine to chase away bad spirits. The leaves are sprinkled throughout a house to cleanse it, or an infusion is drunk.

Fennel tea is used to aid digestion and relieve constipation and recent research indicates that fennel reduces the toxic effects of alcohol on the body.

fennel flower

It’s delicious on hot winter days as a crunchy salad – sliced thinly with segmented oranges (also in season now) and sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil.

fennel and orange salad

On cold winter days  it can be added to any vegetable stew, or cooked with sweet potatoes (also in season now) for a creamy soup.  Interesting how things which are growing in the same season are often perfect combinations.

FENNEL STEW

Cut fennel bulbs into quarters (or sixths if very fat). Cut potatoes into sixths lengthwise. Fry in quite a lot of olive oil for a while to get some brown edges and then add whole garlic cloves, strips of lemon peel and a handful of sundried tomatoes. Add a little water to soften, as this is absorbed, add a little more. Stir often. Be gentle. You are aiming at an unctuous sauce with bits of dissolving potato and browned, soft fennel. It takes a while. Add lots of chopped flat parsley, some fresh tomatoes if you have them and generous squeeze of lemon juice.

fennel stew 002

Our recipe book Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni includes these fennel recipes and many other ways to use fresh vegetables in season.  Why not pre-order your copy now? It will be available in August 2016. R200 plus postage – contact mnandisales@cowfriend.co.za or Liz at 072 098 3985

fennel