Monday, March 7, 2011

Malaquan for Me

“ You going to grow in that rocky place?”
That was the most common question I heard when I started purchasing supplies for my small garden.
The children and neighbors laughed at me as I began chipping at the small plot of cleared earth with a pick ax (come on, you would have laughed too). They laughed as I collected dried grass, manure, and kitchen waste from around the compound and piled it near my hopeful square.
But then it started to take form and others joined in. They removed stones bigger than some of our children and made my pile grow taller than me.
Of course, when it was finally time to plant everyone had an opinion of what I should grow. I had imagined it as my garden with all the things I would want to grow and eat. A perfect little kitchen garden. Here was my second lesson in how nothing in Africa is mine (I’m not sure how many dozens of lessons I’ve had since then, but I’m still not getting it). Everything is communal, everyone gets a say, and so it was determined that I would grow okra and malaquan (sour greens) in all four of my small beds.
Water had to be pumped and brought in 20L jerry cans from the well about 150M away. I paid my child laborers with “Cornerstone Shillings” and promises of okra.
We ended up growing enough greens for all the children to eat several times - that is more than enough to feed 70 people once a week for four weeks. I even had two people come by from the community to see if they could buy my malaquan – booya!
Okra it turns out will produce, produce, produce. Even after we stopped watering and were letting the pods dry to collect the next seed, small determined blossoms would arrive on the stalks, letting our young girls cook and enjoy the small pods all through the dry season.
The first garden has been dug up and we are preparing to plant again as the rains come this month. I now have teams of kids 16 and older starting their own gardens, all part of our new “self-sufficiency” program for young adults at the home and no one has said to me “we can’t grow here.”
Recipe for Malaquan (I’ve never actually made it, just eaten it):
Malquan – Sour leafy green grown by the Acholi tribe in East Africa (substitute: any leafy weed, add lemon)
Sweet Potatoes
Groundnut and/or roasted sesame
Over an open fire roast sesame and/or groundnuts in oil. Remove from heat and grind nuts into a fine butter with a stone. Sauté Malaquan with oil, add nut butter. Serve over boiled sweet potatoes

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