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As many of you know by now, Niger is in the middle of its yearly three month long rainy season. According to the unofficial aid calender, this time of the year (up until the millet harvest in October) is considered the true “hunger season”, and yet Niger’s nature’s pantry is (as always) in full bloom. One of my projects this year has been to try to get to know all the different annuals (there is plenty of time to go through all the perennials when the rainy season is over) and my blog choice this week is a little green annual that grows so gratefully in my garden and produces new leaves after each harvest; a corchorus plant, in Hausa known as Malahiya.

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As I am not alone in my quest to map out the numerous local foods of Niger, this post features a Malahiya soup that my sister-in-law made which was just simply delicious!

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The simple yet tasty malahiya soup recipe consists of a generous contribution of malahiya leaves, cooked with water and a stock cube. You then add some milk (or milk powder if you live in Niger and lack your own milk-producing cow) and spices of your choice. To get that real Ishtar flavour, don’t forget some fresh garlic right at the end, to add that spicy touch!

Despite falling victim to some serious Wester food rasism, the Malahiya is actually a well-known herb, or, as wikipedia would call it, a leafy vegetable.

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Copyright Eden Foundation

Corchorus is a genus plant of about 40-100 species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae, native to tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Different common names are used in different contexts, with jute applying to the fibre produced from the plant, and Mallow-Leaves Malukhiyah [...] applied to the leaves used as a vegetable. The leaves from the Corchorus plant has been a staple Egyptian food since the time of the Pharaohs and is from there it gains its recognition and popularity. Varieties of Mallow-leaves stew with rice is a well known Middle-eastern cuisine.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/

At the Turskish Cypriot Cuisine site for instance, I found the following recipe:

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…showing the people featured in some of the UN’s “silent emergencies” are not the only ones appreciating this pleasant plant! More Malahiya recipes can be found at http://recipes.wikia.com/

What I cannot understand however is why local food has to suffer so much food rasism. The Niger Famine Scam took place in Niger in 2005 pointed out that the Nigerien people had to be suffering because they were living off their local foods.

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Copyright Eden Foundation

And yes, they were living off their trees and bushes. They were cooking sauces of edible leaves, also known as leafy vegetables (not “poisonous leaves” from “brittle trees”, as some would put it), which they were having with millet or hanza paste. In the midst of Eden zone and during the peak of the Famine Scam 2005, the woman above was heading home with her daily collection of Malahiya leaves.

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Copyright Eden Foundation

I end this post with a picture of Harira, who asked the Eden field worker visiting her family to take a pose of her with her dried malahiya leaves. I think the pose turned out very well and had there not been so much else to say on the subject, she would have made a fabulous Photo of the day.