July 16, 2008

Tropical White Maize and Sweetcorn Straight from the Fields of Enfield

Whilst browsing through a recent copy of The Jellied Eel magazine we found a small article about David Mwanaka – the farmer who has planted some special African vegetables alongside the wheat fields of Enfield. We went to investigate.

David recently opened a farm shop at 619 Hertford Road in Enfield to sell the exotic vegetables as well as grass-reared meats and goods from Zimbabwe, David’s mother country.

Inside the shop, he showed us a huge pile of bags full of mustard leaves (tsunga), freshly picked from the fields. Apparently they are simply boiled for 15 minutes and taste delicious. We didn’t even know you could eat them… The mustard field itself is a delightful sight.

Having worked as a journalist in Zimbabwe, David couldn’t find work when he moved to the UK six years ago. Not deterred, he was inspired to become the first producer in the UK of white maize and sweetcorn – a favorite dish in Zimbabwe. There is a saying in South Africa: “put the pot on to boil before you go to pick the maize”. The vegetable is at its best on the day it is picked, so importing it is just not the same.

David also plants pumpkins, for their leaves, in and around the rows of sweetcorn. Its a very traditional technique which you won’t find in large agribusiness fields in the UK. The climate here isn’t quite like sunny South Africa either, so how did David manage? He tested a range of different varieties until he found the ones that liked it here. The maize can be boiled or roasted and eaten on the day of harvest or left on the stalk to dry in the sun (in hot countries!) to be milled into flour. Nothing is wasted and the husks are saved for composting. The sweetcorn is best cooked on a flaming grill….a potential event for Energy Cafe at harvest time in late August, early September.

David’s enterprise has become so popular, that during harvest, people form a long queue daily, outside the farm shop, waiting, their pots boiling at home, for a fresh white maize supper…


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