IVHU - EDIBLE CLAY & VANILLA
Geophagia is the practice of eating dirt and is a historic practice throughout the world. There are a few reasons why people eat soil, including clay, and it is a common practice among pregnant women or anaemic people on the continent. It is thought to be an indication of calcium and iron mineral deficiency in the body which results in cravings for mineral rich soil. It is not entirely clear what or if there are actually any nutritional benefits to eating clay as a mineral supplement and you are encouraged to speak to a medical professional about any nutritional deficiency you may be suffering from during your pregnancy (and indeed for other reasons) and get appropriate medical advice.
While most people only crave clay while there are under some kind of malnutrition, a subset of people experience a disorder called pica which is charactersied by the compulsive consumption of non-nutritive substances like chalk, stones, cloth, paper, ash, ice and hair despite not being pregnant or anaemic. Pica is quite common in children which they typically grow out of but can persist into adulthood and it is unclear what causes it.
If you enjoy eating clay occasionally or compulsively please be responsible with where you source it as it can be contaminated with chemicals and biologicals that leach into the soil. Avoid eating it in excess as it can lead to gastrointestinal problems and dental damage.
ROOIBOS & GINGER
Aspalathus linearis is the scientific name for the plant used to make rooibos (red bush) tea and it is endemic to the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is appealing to some tea drinkers due to its caffeine-free nature and its more subtle and sweet taste.
The species is not under threat of extinction but due to commercial agriculture which utilises monoculture (the growth of one specific crop or crop variety) practices there has been a decrease in the variety of natural populations which can lead to reduced genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is important within any species to keep it healthy and prepared for ever changing environmental and biological factors such as new diseases.
While rooibos is now a global phenomenon it was first used by Africans in the Cederberg region of SA. Besides being a tea it is consumed in numerous other ways including ice cream of course and its use extends to the cosmetic industry as well.
TSINE - SUN-DRIED BLACKJACK GREENS
Bidens pilosa (blackjack) is an invasive plant species on the African continent that is endemic to tropical America. It is a successful invasive plant across the world because of its sturdiness and how easily it can spread its seeds through human and other animal dispersal.
While the plant is heavily problematic as a weed in agricultural cultivation of crops the tender shoots of the plant are consumed globally and are an excellent source of beta-carotene and ascorbic acid, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals. While cultivation of the crop is discouraged, once it pops up as a weed feel free to harvest the leaves before the plant makes seeds as a way to get some nutritional dietary greens while also destroying an invasive species.The leaves can be finely sliced and sun-dried (known as mufushwa in ChiShona) for consumption at a much later time. Human consumption of the greens or absolute destruction of the whole plant through uprooting before seeding is the most effective way to deal with this vegetative pest.
When served in ice cream form the taste is reminiscent of matcha (green tea), liquorice and condensed milk with a herbaceous finish.
MAPUTI - SALTED POPPED WHITE MAIZE
Maputi are a salty snack eaten across Zimbabwe reminiscent of pop-corn but with a more savoury, caramel and nutty flavour profile. They are made by popping dried white maize seeds under high heat and pressure in a maputi cannon. Unlike popcorn these will not pop in your conventional popcorn maker or stove-top pot at home. Alternatively, you can dry roast the maize seeds in a pan on a hot fire and the kernels will cook through and crack somewhat without exploding. This variation is also called maputi (or maputi akakangwa).
Maize and white maize meal have become synonymous with African cuisine and the plant is a daily staple food for millions across our lands. However, it should be noted the plant is a very successful invasive species (Zea mays) from Central America which adds a bit of a complication to how we cultivate prepare and consume it. Maize requires a lot of water to grow as it's evolved in the Americas and is actually not an ideal crop to grow on most of continental Africa. Secondly, the way the Mexicans process maize before consumption through a process called nixtamalisation makes nutrients more readily available for digestion and uptake into the body, a process we did not completely inherit when it was brought across and consequently it is a unacceptable nutrient source (when inadequately prepared).