Ark of taste
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Taro (Colocasia esculenta), or arrowroot, is also known as nduma among the Kalenjin and Gikuyu people from Kenya’s Rift valley Province. It is a perennial plant harvested at intervals. It has a creeping rootstock with fleshy corms and its many-branched stem, reaching a height of 0.5-1.5 meters, bears numerous leaves (which have a long, narrow sheath and large spreading ovate blades) and a few stalked white flowers.

Nduma grows well in waterlogged areas and on riverbeds because it requires wet conditions and consumes a lot of water. It is possible to grow nduma away from riverbeds by planting them in trenches. The trenches are dug with one meter of space between them in order to provide enough space, so that weeding can be done without stepping on the plants and because soil compaction will reduce the aeration of the soil. Nduma are harvested twice or three times a year depending on how well the field has been managed.

Nduma was produced even during dry period in areas around the rivers, and helped provide people with enough food. The corms, which are either boiled or fried to be served with different stews, are very nutritious. Local people often eat nduma with a cup of tea in the morning before they go to the farms or other jobs as it gives them enough energy for the day. It is also a source of fiber. Nduma roots were powdered and used to thicken soups and stews made from either cereals or vegetables. Nduma was also used as a substitute for potatoes and bread. It was believed to support growth and development and also regulate body weight. Apart from being eaten, nduma mixed with herbs was used to heal wounds from scorpion bites and poison from arrows. During the main harvest, nduma farmers sell their surplus. This allows them to increase their income significantly, as very few people are involved in producing nduma.

Due to the introduction of industrial products like breads, cakes, and biscuits, the consumption of nduma has declined, especially among young people who think of it as a traditional food for the elderly. Urban migration has also greatly affected the production because elderly people left behind in farms cannot work efficiently in the fields. The introduction of a new variety of taro from Rwanda has also contributed to the decline of the local variety, which is better adapted to the region.

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Rift Valley

Other info


Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Kalenjin, Gikuyu
Nominated by:Viaggio didattico Unisg Kenya 2017, James Karuga