Rwandese are known for their lean structures and beautiful skin and their love of fruits and vegetables are sure physical indicators of what a meal rich in these foods can do for you.
Going green with super foods is more than a fad with internal benefits and you know what they say, you are only as good as you feel on the inside. According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, green super foods are jam packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with very few calories. The antioxidants have been known to reduce or reverse the effects of free radicals that have close links with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases and immune deficiency. These foods also help purify your blood, aid in digestion enhance your immune system and boost energy. When a portion is included in a healthy, balanced diet, they account for well over 300% of a person’s daily nutritional needs.
The green super foods
AFRICAN NIGHTSHADE – KNOWN AS MANAGU IN SWAHILI.
Originally from Central Africa, these varieties are commonly grown in Rwanda and nearby countries though other varieties of night shade from Europe and other parts of the world are known to be poisonous. They tend to be bitter but the flavour can be improved by letting it rest several days after cooking or by adding fermented milk. Simple recipe
CASSAVA LEAVES – KNOWN AS IBIBABI IN KINYARWANDA
You can’t say you’ve had a meal in Rwanda without trying out ibibabi. As the leaves are tough and take a while to cook, flavour is added to them by mixing them with herbs and spices to create a meal called isombe originally from DR Congo. Ibibabi, like the African Night shade, can be an acquired taste. The leaves are usually ground and can be done for you when buying from the market. Be sure to specify if you want ibibabi (the cassava leaves alone) or isombe (the cassava leaves ground with herbs and spices). Simple recipe
AMARANTH – KNOWN AS MCHICHA IN SWAHILI
These drought resistant crops mature early and its place among indigenous vegetables is undisputable. The leaves are tender, spicy and slightly acidic. In China, India and South America, this plant is known more for its seeds rather than the leaves which are ranked among the world’s healthiest foods. Simple recipe
COLLARD GREENS – KNOWN AS SUKUMA IN SWAHILI
These leaves are thick and slightly bitter but boy do they taste awesome when fried right. There’s often confusion in the market as they are sometimes referred to as kale. When doing your shopping and want to try collard greens, you are better off using the Swahili term to get it and ask for kale when you want kale. The best leaves are those picked before maturity though age doesn’t affect the flavour and the stems are removed before cooking. Simple recipe
Belonging to the same family as beetroot and spinach, there are some farmers that refer to these vegetables as spinach. They are of course very different though they MAY have similar flavour profile that’s bitter, pungent and slightly salty depending on the variety. The leaves are NOT to be soaked in water before cooking rather rinsed under cold running water and the stems removed. They also cook very quickly so to get the most from them, a quick fry or blanching will do. Simple recipe
SPINACH – KNOWN AS PINARI IN KINYARWANDA
It has an obvious different look from swiss chard and has a mild and slightly sweet taste making it a great option to be eaten raw. Baby spinach has an even more punchy flavour and is fantastic in smoothies and juices. Though it may be confusing when trying to buy these vegetables in the market due to the fact they are confused for swiss chard in terminology, your safest bet would be to use the local term. Simple recipe
These super foods can be found in Kigali Farmers’ And Artisans’ Market every 1st Sat of the month, grown and freshly harvested by local farmers. They can also be gotten at other major local county markets in Kigali.