Five little-known vegetables that could help end hunger
Native vegetables such as guar, Dogon shallot, and celosia could play an important role in feeding Africa.
No single food can put an end to hunger. But worldwide there are many different fruits and vegetables that are helping to improve nutrition and diets, while increasing incomes and improving livelihoods.Skip to next paragraph
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Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces a new series featuring the four vegetables – and one fruit that acts like a vegetable – that you have likely never heard of that are helping to alleviate hunger and poverty:
1. Guar: Like other legumes, guar’s (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) roots have nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which improve the quality of the soil and increase the yield of subsequent crops. In addition to being an organic green manure, the guar seed is a valuable source of vegetable protein for humans and cattle. The seeds contain a thickening agent that can be used to strengthen paper, as well as improve the texture of foods such as ice cream and salad dressing.
Best way to eat it: Guar can be cooked in water until tender and sautéed with mustard oil and other seasonings, garnished with coriander and served hot as a flavorful entre or side.
Guar in Action: The organization Practical Action is encouraging farmers in the semi-arid Zambezi valley of northern Zimbabwe to grow guar to improve nutrition and livelihoods. The project has provided small-scale farmers with some of the inputs they need to cultivate the crop, as well as helping them develop a sound market system to reap benefits from the harvest.
2. The Dogon Shallot: The dogon shallot is found in Dogon, the land in the Bandiagarà escarpment between Mopti and Timbuktu in Mali. Shallots (Allium cepa var. aggregatum), a relative of the onion, have long been appreciated for their unique sweet and rich flavor and are a staple ingredient for many popular dishes. The nutritional and savory part of this vegetable is the bulb which grows underground and produces leaves, flowers, and fruits above ground.
Best way to eat it: Dogon Somè is a condiment commonly used in Dogon cooking. It consists of the shallot and other local ingredients such as, gangadjou, oroupounnà, and pourkamà. The leaves, flowers, and fruit of each plant are included in a sauce that is served to flavor most meals.
The Dogon Shallot in Action: In 2009 USAID/Mali’s Integrated Initiatives for Economic Growth program (IICEM) with funds from the Global Food Security Response (GFSR) sent women from the village to a conference in Burkina Faso in order to share their experience and their shallots. The attendees at the conference enjoyed the shallots so much that the women won a first place prize of $1,700 and one woman received an order for 25 tons of her delicious shallots.