If you are a regular reader or visitor of this blog, you have probably come cross several articles on indigenous foods in Zimbabwe. However, in all those articles I have not grouped the traditional food from Zimbabwe properly into different groups and types. Today, I have decided to discuss the different types of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe.
It is pitiful and disappointing to know that many indigenous foods have been lost into history. As we embrace more and more foreign foods, we tend to forget about our own culinary heritage. Knowledge about our traditional dishes tend to disappear. And unfortunately, our ancestors laked the ability to read and write, as a result we only have bits and pieces of recipes that we get through oral tradition. And that is only if you are lucky enough to have ancient grandparents who can pass them to you.,
Still, I have decided to collect, the little available and put it on the public domain so that we can all enjoy the little that we have left. And this is the reason why I decided to group the types of traditional foods that we have in Zimbabwe.
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Indigenous foods are not dirty nor are they dirty and for the poor
Many people indigenous food like they are not foods. Some, see it as food for the poor due to the food’s lack of a refined appealing look. Let’s take sadza rezyiyo for example, it is made from finger millet, one of the healthiest small grains out there. But, if I were to give it to someone used to loads of junky refined think, they will think that you are about to eat a lump of dirt!
Many folks who think they are well up rarely spare a glance for the unappealing healthy indigenous foods. Like the tasty and appetising processed foods that have long drilled massive wholes onto the health of many folks. But I want to assure you that these types of indigenous food in Zimbabwe are just as healthier or if not healthier than the processed junk that you look forward to eating every day!
Types of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe
There are different types of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe. When I talk about indigenous foods, i refer to those foods that originate from Zimbabwe or do not originate there but are cooked in a traditional way like pumpkin leaves. These different types of traditional foods that you can eat in Zimbabwe are:
These are one of my favourite foods that make up the Zimbabwean cuisine. Zimbabwean wild vegetables come up in different forms and type. However, more of them contain different health promoting factors besides being rich in nutrients. Munyevhe (spider plant) is one of my favourites, even though it takes longer to cook and is seasonal. This means you can easily get it in the rainy season and not so much outside the rainy season. However, it tastes so well in goat meat stew and many healthy conscious people have started growing it in their home gardens. Other vegetables you can try include blackjack (mutsine), amaranth (mowa), pumpkin leaves (muboora), nightshade, chigumbexe and tsunga. However, we cannot forget the tasty mabumbe from pumkin seeds, wild okras (derere renyenje and nyamwenda) as well as derere rekakuyu that comes from baobab leaf shoots.
One good thing about all these traditional vegetables is that you can cook most of them with peanut butter, or without cooking way. Either way, you get a much-needed break from the common vegetable oils that have been touted as unhealthy fats for long. I don’t even know why the heathy bodies in this country still allow oil pressers to label vegetable oils as heart healthy!
When I think about wild fruits, I just check the calendar to see what season it is, then I would start wondering about what types of wild fruits I will get to enjoy once I descent onto the forests back in my village. Most of the times I end up salivating with an unquenchable desire that will boil down my mind until I quench it with a banana or too. But then the tastes are so different!
I find delight in gathering fruits wild fruits and eating all of them before i go home. Call me selfish if you want but I am not going to carry the tasty tsubvu or chinga home, I mean everyone got their own legs and the forests starts from the doorstep. I would only bring a few for my young brothers and my mom though.
There are many wild fruits to try in Zimbabwe but just to name a few you can try, hute, tsubvu, matohwe, matamba, mahzanje, chenje, shuma, nhengeni, masawu, mauuyu, nyii, mbarembare, tsambatsi, gan’acha, maroro, mabhobho, makuyu and amroo among others.
You have to be careful though, even edible wild fruits can taste so bad you wish you never ate one. So, you try a small bit first to see how it tastes.
We also have wild tree nuts in Zimbabwe and I promise you that they do not look like your pecan, cashew or macademia nuts. The wild nuts are found on the inner core of hacha or chakata as well as mapfura or marula fruits. You will have to crush the woody core or you a sharp wire or thorn to pry and fish out the tasty nuts from the woody core of the fruits. I have been to Mwenezi and they have marula/ mapfura fruits lying down everywhere there.
These wild nuts are a hustle to get but the taste is just rewarding. Some people use it to make a tasty nut butter that they feed to children in porridge.
Insects are a tasty delicacy to some whilst being disgusting bug to others. However, to many people in Zimbabwe especially in the rural areas, they are just another part of the daily cuisine. Many different types of insects find their ways into someone’s plate every day, especially in the rural areas. During the rainy seaso you can eat termites, tsambarafuta, ishwa, locusts and grasshoppers, as well as nhowa a type of worm that eats mutowa tree leaves. You can also eat magandari worms and a certain type of madora found in few numbers on muchenje tree, not forgetting the harati worms.
In Masvingo they fist on the tasty harurwa whilst in Mbire they have nyenze an insect that shrills and shrieks under the heat of the sun whilst nestling in mopane trees. In the rain season you find kids with torches walking slowly and listening carefully to get the directions of the crickets singing as they dig and clean their wholes. Yeah, crickets are eaten as a tasty delicacy down here. In some areas they eat the shiny black hard shelled gakata and the tough skinned magandari worms.
I love fish, especially wild river fish. To be frank the taste is a bit different from your fish bond reared ones or the ones found in dams. I remember that in 2016 we went to Hunyani river and camped for several days whilst fishing, everyone with their fishing rods and lines. I will never forget that experience. In fact, the fact that you are eating what you got out of the water from the fishing rod you are using is satisfying itself. Its actually much better than spending 12 hours a day in your room on tick tock or playing video games.
Wild fish is one type of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe that will blow your taste buds away.
I can’t say that I have a lot of experience with these wild tubers than anyone reading this blog. However, I know that they are a type of indigenous food in Zimbabwe that we cannot ignore! I have only eaten manyanya once, and they were taste. But there is other root like tubers like tsombori, himo and madzungwa that you can dig from the ground and then eat without cooking. For manyanya and tsenza however, you need to cook them before eating. I have eaten manyanya bur for tsenza, I only know they are eaten as per what my grandma told me. However, these tubers are worth a try if you come across someone with adequate knowledge on how to gather and cook them.
There is no doubt that traditional grains like sorghum (mapfunde), finger millet (zviyo) and pearl millet (mhunga). For sorghum you can chose between the red ones that probably have a lot of health promoting factors and white ones. Either way they are less starchy than maize and may be a better option if you are on a weight loss diet.
Finger millet on the other hand gives a dark brown meal or flour when ground. The finger millet meal can make a brown porridge that taste well with just lemon and nothing else. Sadza rezviyo is also healthier than pap made from maize meal which has more starch and less nutrients. Finger millet is very rich in nutrients and health promoting factors. Therefore the grain is recommended for meals used by diabetic people. Mhunga or pearl millet is more like sorghum in structure but behaves more like finger millet in nutrient content and its flour.
I have never eaten these in my life! However, that does not stop others from enjoying this tasty delicacy. This is one of the weirdest types of indigenous food you can find in Zimbabwe. I mean, they look like rates, I don’t even know if they are different because they practically look the same. However, that does not mean that they taste any no better than your grilled steak or fish. Believe me if someone is roasting mice and you pass through a space 100 metres away, you would definitely want to give them a try.
If you want to taste mice, you first get to remove the prejudice that you have against them!
Local free-range chicken
In Zimbabwe we call the local type of free-range chicken “road runners. This is because of their tougher and tastie. The chickens spend their day running across the yard in search of food. To keep these, you don’t need any specific or fans types of poultry feed. These are so resilient you can take care of them using grains and food scraps!
What we love about this chicken breed is that its very tasty and delicious. Also, you can treat these freerange with wild herbs like aloe vera. Therefore, you don’t have to worry too much because of antibiotic residues in your food.
I a a fan of fresh milk not fermented milk. However, I have seen relatives and friends feasting on the creamy fermented sour milk. Some ferment the milk in large clay pots called hodzeko so that the fermentation is natured to produce a delicacy. If you want to try the different types of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe. This is definitely one of them.
There are many different types of indigenous foods in Zimbabwe. I have tried some and I am happy to say that I enjoyed every moment of eat. My goal now is to keep searching for the indigenous food knowledge and share it with others in Zimbabwe. After all we deserve to know and taste what our ancestors were eating hundreds of years ago. Most of the traditionall foods do not taste that bad, so we can enjoy them too. If you are a fan of this blog leave a shout out in the comment sections!