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Africa's Slippery Delicacy

Those who are not used to it find its very sight distasteful. They wonder how you can eat a vegetable that is so slippery that it keeps sliding from your fingers. How is it supposed to make it into your mouth?

But those who are used to it become lifelong benign addicts. In Kenya, this slippery vegetable is mostly associated with the Luhya community whose ancestral base in western Kenya. They call it omurere while the rest of the country refers to it as mrenda.

The Luhya have been devouring omurere for centuries. Its recipe remained largely unchanged for most of this period. It was cooked with zero fat, essentially just boiled in water sprinkled with a liquid concoction known as omusherekha. This concoction is a traditional alkali liquid akin to bicarbonate of soda. It is prepared from beans’ leaves powder.

"To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others." Francois Mauriac

Omusherekha softens and preserves the food nicely,’ says Nashibe, an eighty-year old from Ekero in Mumias, ‘it is just as important as salt.’

This indigenous alkali preserves and softens food.

My name is Corchorus. I know it’s a technical sounding name, but you have to understand that those who gave it to me were technical people. In Arabic, I am known as Mulukhiya. But among the Kenya’s Luhya people, I am known as Omurere. In the Luhya language, this literally means, ‘that which slides.’ So it is safe to say that my full names are Corchorus Omurere Mulukhiya. And my nickname in Kenya is Mrenda.

I am one of the hundreds of indigenous edible plant species in Africa. For centuries, we have nourished generations of Africans. We have been increasingly shelved in favor of junk food and meat. It’s time for us to make a comeback.

omurere 2

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Last modified on Sunday, 24 October 2021 16:58

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