INUMPU – Burundi’s Indigenous Potatoes and A Recipe

Updated 17-11-2012

With growing interest in promoting crops that can withstand climatic changes, INUMPU – a native potato in sub-Saharan Africa – is one local crop that needs to be promoted – along with leafy amaranth, which I blogged about here.

As written about by the National Academy of Sciences, this is an indigenous Lost Crop.  No applied research has been done on it  here in Burundi – or attempts to promote and spread its propagation throughout the country.  It is an excellent staple during drought periods – more so than either potatoes or sweet potatoes or corn – and thus remains locally popular as a garden crop.

Excellent chapters on both amaranth and native potatoes can be found in the following PDF book by the National Academy of Sciences:

Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables

INUMPU is the name of an indigenous type of root crop, similar in taste and form to potatoes, found in Burundi and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.  We are introducing its cultivation in our village contract farming project, that is growing organic produce for the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, which benefits inhabitants of the local village.

Working in the indigenous vegetables plots in the village
Working in the indigenous vegetables plots in the village

Here are former blogs that I’ve written about INUMPU – or native potatoes:

 INUMPU, just after harvesting:
INUMPU, before washing.

Nona is responsible for organizing the first lot of INUMPU, from her farm up-country, that we planted here in the organic gardens for the Hotel

Here is the recipe used at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika – ingredients are listed in order of use; quantity is up to you:

 Olive oil
• Garlic
• Onion
• Curry powder
• Pili-pili powder (red-hot powder)
• Lenga-lenga, chopped and blanched (local variety of Amaranth – spinach could be used)
• Red Beans, cooked (white could be used, but red are traditional)
• Native potatoes, blanched
 

This was really delicious.  The native potatoes have a very creamy texture and taste, taking up some of the tastes of the other ingredients and neither to ‘dry’ or ‘mushy’ as regular potatoes can be in a casserole dish.. 

However, the native potatoes, beans and lenga-lenga were slightly overcooked, so that when they were added to the pot everything did get a bit too mixed – as the picture below shows.  Also, using white instead of red beans would help to keep separate the colors of the different ingredients.

As you can see, due to the overcooking it is difficult to tell the ingredients apart – this was in yesterdays Sunday International Buffet. Nevertheless, the dish  was much appreciated by Burundians, and a treat for non-Burundians. Just not very nice looking! It was finished in another 30 minutes

The new crop of local potatoes planted in our organic gardens in the village will be ready in a few weeks, and Chef Richard will try again – and will  also use the potatoes in different recipes.  But the recipe used here is the traditional one in Burundi (red beans – lenga-lenga – native potatoes).

Potato preparation in the kitchen – ready for blanching

Burundians tend to add very little salt to a dish when cooking it, because pili-pili (hot) sauce is usually used, to taste, by the consumer  – a replacement for salt found throughout Africa where pili-pili is eaten and salt has, traditionally, been scarce. 

Marc, a local agronomist, joined us to discuss local (indigenous) crops with farmers upcountry. This farmer grows INUMPU, especially for use during drought periods.
Agricultural research over past years has ignored indigenous crops, preferring to focus on those with which Western, and Western-trained agronomists are most familiar.  This myopia is now changing but very slowly. 
 
There are a handful of Lost Crops here in Burundi, such as local potatoes, local squash, lenga-lenga (amaranth), entoré (indigenous eggplants), birds eye chili peppers, etc., that we will be promoting through our village-level contract farming project. 
 
 These are some of the staple foods of the country that continue to play an important – but generally ignored role in every-day food security at farm level.
 
Hopefully, our work and promotion of indigenous crops with the Hotel restaurants  and their many clients can help address this problem. 

About diana buja

A recent group photo at a training course for veterinarians and vet technicians here in Burundi. I discuss in French with some Kirundi and have also a Kirundi translator to help with technical aspects ... Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Africa-General, Agriculture, Contract-Farming, Cuisine, Food, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to INUMPU – Burundi’s Indigenous Potatoes and A Recipe

  1. donkeynomadRowan says:

    Wow, I would really love to buy some true seeds of INUMPU to try growing here in Australia if you know of any sellers over there.

    Like

    • dianabuja says:

      You have a great idea – and a method of helping both to preserve and expand the cultivation of ‘lesser’ indigenous crops!

      Unfortunately, there are no planting materials for INUPU that are available for distribution, but it is a topic I’m working on with the national agricultural research institute.

      Thanks for your interest!

      Dianabuja.

      Like

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    • Dianabuja says:

      Read the above blog, which says:
      “This was really delicious. The native potatoes have a very creamy texture and taste, taking up some of the tastes of the other ingredients and neither to ‘dry’ or ‘mushy’ as regular potatoes can be in a casserole dish.. ”

      Dianabuja.

      Like

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