Friday, 30 September 2011

51 Types of Cassava Including a Mzungu Variety

Jack Fruit or Cowwar
Last weekend Elsa (our Danish Chiropractic volunteer) and I decided to do a spice tour.  With Mwalim (one of my students) as our taxi driver and Said our knowledgeable tour guide, we headed to the government farms about 15km from Stone Town.  Said is also a herbalist and teacher and spoke perfect English.  Initially I thought he looked like a seriously conservative Muslim in his kofia (hat) and kanzu (long flowing gown).  But a couple of jokes about his nutmeg concoctions to make sperm swim more heartily, and he and I quickly became chums.

Nutmeg Presented in Banana Base
The first stop was a farm which had 26 varieties of sweet potato and 51 types of cassava growing – including a variety called Mzungu, which is Swahili for white person.  This variety had bright red stems – the colour that Mzungus generally turn when they stay in the sun too long.  Cassava and sweet potato leaves are also cooked and eaten here, which is unheard of in the Caribbean.  You use the young leaves at the top and cook as if you were preparing spinach, and sometimes nuts are ground and added to the dish. I am thinking some good salt fish would work as well – hard to find here – might have to substitute dried octopus.  By the way there are also 26 types of bananas grown here including an amazing red skinned variety which you rarely find in the Caribbean these days.

Cloves - An Opened Flower
From the farm we visited other smaller farms and saw bongo (a tart large seed passion fruit type fruit), jack fruit (cowwar), black pepper (grows on a vine), cloves (an unopened flower), cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric root, sour cherries, papaya, some sort of red cherries which are very rare, tangerines, cocoa, coffee, cilantro, lemon grass (fever grass), sapodilla (nesberry), sorrel, and tons of nutmeg.  One of the highlights was stopping in the nearby village to use the washroom and there was a little hut with two women cooking.  Said introduced me to them and they were frying these tiny finger sized fish whole.  Of course I had to sample them – it is the Trinidadian equivalent to fry-dry.  It was super – lots of geera (cumin) and you eat it in one go – head and bones and all.

Fish Fry - Was Yummy
After the spice tour we retreated to Zanzibar coffee house for my usual cappuccino and passion fruit tort.  From there headed to Archipelago for our lunch and on our way we made an amazing discovery.  In one of the winding streets we smelt freshly baked bread and following our noses, we found this amazing old bakery. It looked like something from the 14th century – wood fired stone ovens and hundreds of loaves of fresh bread coming out.  Of course we sampled the bread and bought some hot loaves – 3 loaves for 900 shillings or 60 cents US$.  Another week another super adventure in spicy Zanzibar.  Next week I am off to Dar es Salaam on the mainland for ICT training at VSO (my employers) headquarters.  Looking forward to meeting some of the new volunteers but not so much the Econo Lodge hotel where I will have to stay.  Hope there will be not electrical fireworks this time and leg restricting pillars in front the toilet, as I have not yet mastered the little practiced art of sitting sideways on a toilet seat to poo!


  1. the more i read ,...the more intersting it becomes

  2. In Trinidad we have red stick cassava your mother used to plant them a long time ago.Also your father cooked cassava leaves, potato leaves along with any and every kind of spinach he found, we used to think he is crazy as kids but it took an educated son to go all the way to Africa to enlighten us. Give thanks to your father.

  3. Is the 'fry dry' what we would call sprat? Have you memorized some of the nutmeg concoctions for future reference?? :-)