Coming home to a kitchen smelling like stewed rotten rodent, a choking pungent smell could only mean one thing, the lady of the house was on the cabbage soup diet.
This was the ‘thing’ in the 90s when women indulged in one ingredient diets ranging from cabbage, squash to mangoes.
Then came the 21st century with the more technical and sophisticated Atkins diet, juice cleansers and the currently trending Low Carbohydrate High Fat Banting diet.
Women all over the world have been subjected to all sorts of fad diets and all the while Batswana women have had food of the highest nutritional value literally growing in their backyards.
When making a presentation at the recent National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) Indigenous Food stakeholder’s workshop in Kanye, Selalo Mpotokwane gave a detailed explanation on the commercialisation of Botswana’s indigenous foods basing on current practices, trends and opportunities.
In 2011 NFTRC conducted a nationwide indigenous food and competition survey which according to Mpotokwane, was to, “identify opportunities which if tapped will significantly diversify the economy and sharply increase food security”.
From this survey a list was developed comprised of indigenous foods taking into consideration the availability of raw material, sustainability of supplies, commercial potential and nutritional value.
In descending order the foods were pounded donkey meat (seswaa sa tonki), morula drink, lerotse, morama, pounded beef, Baobab pulp (mowana), water melon (legapu), bean and samp (dikgobe), millet (senkgwana), bean leaves (morogo wa dinawa), lengana, motlopi coffee, mmilo, mokolwane, mahupu, bukhwilo, moretlwa, melon seeds, bean leaves and peanuts (dobi ya manoko), Wild Okra (delele), milk, phane, sorghum flour, sweet potatoes and tswii.
It was during the survey that NFTRC established that they need a holistic approach in order to successfully commercialise the indigenous food as a lot belongs to the community which it grows in specifically for their sustenance.
Mpotokwane highlighted the importance of sustainability in the long term which will in turn cause less friction amongst the different stakeholders.
The belle of the Indigenous Foods Ball has to be the Wild Okra, or delele which predominantly grows in the North Eastern part of the country.
With a slimy texture when cooked, Wild Okra boasts an immense amount of nutrients and minerals and like many organic greens its consumption is an acquired taste. NFTRC has managed to blanch, dry and package it for trade and possibly exportation.
The Wild Okra’s primary utilisation is as an ingredient in formulations with other vegetables, of a nutritious yet somewhat objectionable vegetable (mainly due to its slimy texture.)