THE VALUE OF LEAFY VEGETABLES: AN EXPLORATION OF AFRICAN FOLKLORE|
Owuor, Onyango Bethwell & Olaimer-Anyara, Ekisa
Indigenous Leafy Vegetables foods have an exceptional place in African cuisine. It is commonly argued that vegetable consumption reflects cultural backgrounds and their value transcends a biological one, as food, to symbolism enhancing the functioning of society and promoting social order. This study set to determine species use, folkloric dimensions and taste preferences in a rural East African setting. A bio-cultural approach reinforced by ethno-botanical tools conducted over a three-year period and recourse to a corpus of Luo ethnic food plant literature and gathering of folklore elements from a conversational context was used to study socio-cultural elements of vegetables foods of people in Migori and Suba districts of Kenya.
Seventy-four respondents, 56 female and 18 males, of mean age 43 years and ranging between 16 and 84 years participated in focus group discussions and research interviews. Herbarium specimens of 34 leafy edible plant species in seventeen plant families are deposited at the University of Nairobi and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa herbaria. This study documents 17 sayings (folkloristic products) of different genre: mantras, traditional beliefs, customs, practices, folk stories/ tales, songs, jokes and lexical phrases.
Their sociolinguistic analysis reveals they address issues appropriate to Luo ritual, social status, nutrition, taste preferences, cooking habits and conflict resolution. Though Luo folklore indicates aversion for bitter vegetables, the body of folkloric wisdom sustains vegetable dish consumption. The preference and craving for bitter tasting herbs by elder women was because of an understanding of both food and medicinal values. This paper concludes that vegetable consumption reflects cultural backgrounds and experiences. Folklore defines how Africans perceive, define, and value indigenous Leafy Vegetables in their own terms and presents a stable platform for cultural analysis of oral food culture. Indigenous Leafy Vegetables are symbolic "sources of illumination" that orient African people persistently with the system of meaning in their culture.
Indigenous Leafy Vegetables, culture, folklore