Last Friday three new farmers signed contracts to grow vegetables for the kitchens of the Hôtel club du lac Tanganyika.
The seeds that they will be planting this week include celery, spinach, green peppers and turnips. The first three are ‘mystery’ seeds in that the local seed supplier knows nothing about their characteristics, except that they come from Kenya. The turnip seeds also are from Kenya, but are a variety that should do well in the Imbo (sandy plain along lake Tanganyika, where our cultivation takes place).
Obtaining good seeds is a serious problem in Burundi because, after decades of war and the flight of expert technical staff and supporting funds, research has been, for the most part, frozen. I’ll be talking with the local FAO representative to discuss possibilities of their helping to support work in this area.
Seeds are being started out in small nurseries, protected from harsh sun either with very fine netting from old mosquito nets (as here) or with rice straw. The women have just started clearing the rice land for outplanting. The rice has just been harvested and the straw will be used as mulch.
Other seeds are coming from Kenya that are being selected specifically for our agro-climatic conditions, but that will be another couple of weeks and in the meantime we want to give these seeds a chance. Also to be planted in the next week are seeds of two indigenous greens that are grown and widely eaten in Kenya. We hope to add these to our indigenous collection of vegetables, to be prepared for special dinners that feature local (indigenous) crops and cuisines.
Our current plantings of short-leafed spinach, melons, cucumber, tomatoes, and indigenous squash are doing well. It is also the season for both green (cooking) and sweet (dessert) bananas. Both of these varieties are small.
Ammini Ramachandran has just sent us recipes for both pumpkin/squash and banana flowers, these are from her cookbook on cuisine in Kerala (southern India) – which is widely recommended, although not available in central Africa, most unfortunately! As soon as we make these in the Hotel kitchen, I will do a blog giving the recipes and the results – and also the Italian recipe that we use for zucchini blossoms. Very delicious!
This is an excellent example of mixed, or companion planting, whereby the mixture of plant types slows damage by insects and some diseases.