Ajok Betty picks greens from her Forest Garden
At Trees for the Future, we take ending hunger and poverty very seriously. When we help a farmer grow a Forest Garden, we make sure to train them to grow nutritious, environmentally sustainable food for themselves and their families. We are always happy to hear what our farmers are cooking from their Forest Gardens and how each garden contributes to each family's own food-secure future.
During this season of Thanksgiving in the United States, we hope that you will enjoy learning about how this local Ugandan dish is prepared and enjoyed! Without your contributions, our Ugandan farmers would not be able to provide their families with this locally grown, organic, and sustainable meal.
In Kole, Uganda, there are a few types of pumpkin that are grown, but the leaves of only one of these kinds of pumpkin are eaten as a delicacy among families in the region. Pumpkin leaves make the hearty and nutritious base of this green stew which is eaten with millet or potato. Gira Sebastian* and his wife, Ajok Betty*, share how they prepare this dish.
First, Betty collects the ingredients she will need:
- Acwica pumpkin leaves
- Cut okra
- Soda ash
Ajok Betty walks to her garden to pick young fresh acwica. The acwica leaves are rough and textured to the touch. Once plucked from the vine, Ajok Betty strips the outer layer of the stem and the stringy fibers from the leaves. It is a delicate process, but one that she has mastered from years of making this dish.
Once collected, the leaves are washed thoroughly and placed on a board to be cut. The leaves are gathered in a pile and sliced into thin strips using a metal knife. Okra is sliced into rounds to be added to the dish as well. This mixture is brought into the cooking hut where her daughter has begun to boil water over the wood fire stove. Ajok Betty adds soda ash – which is made by adding soda ash into a small tin container with a tiny hole in the bottom, pouring water over it, and collecting the bitter water that is filtered out. This ingredient is critical in creating the desired flavor of the dish. Ajok Betty adds the vegetables to the water and soda ash and it cooks until it is done. Betty explains it is easy for her to know when it is ready, but when she was first beginning to learn to make this dish as a girl, she smelled and sampled bites to ensure it was perfectly cooked.
Today Ajok Betty, Gira Sebastian, and their family will eat the acwica alongside two other greens-based dishes, boo and amaranth leaves. All of these are sopped up with millet and African white-fleshed sweet potatoes. When it's ready to eat, the food is brought out with a table and tablecloths. Guests are served first, followed by Gira Sebastian and his adult sons. The remaining eight children and one granddaughter would normally be served next, but today they are at school, so food is set-aside for them when they return home. Finally Betty will take her portion and enjoy the hearty meal she has grown and prepared for her family!
On behalf of Ajok Betty, Gira Sebastian and their family thank you for your contributions to our Forest Garden projects in Uganda.
Trees for the Future
*These are not the farmers full names
The chef prepares her fresh ingredients
The leafy sauces are very tasty and hearty!
Gira Sebastian in his Forest Garden