I would like to reintroduce myself, I am Chef Ukhonaye Mconi born in Kwanobuhle Uitenhage. Growing up, my grandmothers were my personal Chefs, Nonceba definitely was all about savoury fancy food and Vuyiswa all about healthy and baked goods.
To say these two ladies influenced my career, would be an understatement. A pivotal part in ensuring I know quality, homely and hearty food.
With that being said, I must say that I miss all the vegetables and dishes that made our house a home. I asked myself questions as I navigated through this culinary space, “Where are the authentic African ingredients? Where are all the dishes that I grew up with?”
That lead to me writing this piece and doing a bit of research to see where our country stands with vegetation and our indigenous ingredients. And here I am a few clicks away on google and boom, southafrica.co.za presents to me. The beauty of a website that not only tracks down the indigenous fruits and vegetables but also gives you their names in each of the 11 official languages of our country. Isn’t that just beautiful?
So my next question is, “why do we still heavily use European crops and why do our supermarkets not stock our own vegetation?”. Looking at the website, a lot of the ingredients, not only are they highly nutritious but also help the soil/environment.
Lets take one Vegetable for example and let me see if I can show you what I mean, the Spider Plant (Cleome gynandra). This plant is a force within plant kingdom as it is food for animals and the earth.
Across Africa, this plant has been used for medicinal, culinary and farming purposes yet only a select few know about it or reap the benefits of it. Zambians mix these leaves with dishes such as groundnuts. Having a further look at the website southafrica.co.za, you will see that there is so much fruit and veg that is special to our climate and soil which we need to keep our soils fresh and producing.
I say let us reintroduce these indigenous plants into our diets and see the effect on our bodies and economy this will have. I am interested in maybe sourcing some of these ingredients and maybe have a dinner or masterclass around them to show the versatility and also showcase that we are rich and we do not need to be importing vegetation from other countries.
If you know of any other vegetables or fruits that maybe grow in your area or you grew up eating them, please do share with us in the comment section below.
Chef Ukhonaye Mconi