Chinjenje (Pounded Pumpkin Seeds)

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Chinjenje is a pasta made with crushed pumpkin seeds, originally from the Chewa community residing in eastern Zambia, a territory characterized by a warm climate where agriculture and livestock are mainly practiced. Pumpkins are grown together with corn during the rainy season, between November and March, and are harvested in April. The seeds are taken from the fruit and left to dry in the sun, while the softer and easier-to-work leaves are collected from the stem. The seeds are small, between 2 and 4 gr, soft and brown in color. The texture and taste recall those of the liver, but the smell is that of pumpkin seeds and vegetables used to season them.
Its low perishability has made this product a fundamental resource for the community and has allowed its tradition to be transmitted from one generation to another. The product is harvested in April and its usually planted in maize field were its grown together. The women take care of the cultivation of pumpkins and their processing after harvesting. Usually, these activities are accompanied by traditional songs and stories of ancestors that help to strengthen the sense of community among its members. Stories allow young people to learn about the traditions of their people and pass them on to subsequent generations. The transmission of traditional knowledge, such as the preparation of Chinjenje, is essential to avoid its loss in the community.
The product can be consumed throughout the year due to the ease of storage. After the pumpkins are harvested, the seeds are taken from the fruits and dried in special traditional baskets made by the women of the community. Chinjenje is often eaten as an accompaniment to rice, or a traditional Zambian dish called nshima – a corn-based porridge. This food is very nutritious and rich in protein. In addition, it is used to prevent complications due to hypertension and heart disease.
Once dry, the seeds are pounded in a mortar until a sifted powder is obtained. Subsequently, the powder is kneaded with hot water and added little by little until the oil is extracted and a paste is formed. A part of extracted oil is removed with a spoon and stored to cook other vegetables. From the dough are made flattened balls to boil in a saucepan for about three and a half hours. Once cooked, add the dried vegetables, and cook for another thirty minutes. Finally, these sorts of biscuits are served accompanied by tomatoes and onions and seasoned with salt.
Today, this product is at risk of disappearing because only the older generations take care of its preparation; moreover, its consumption is limited to the Chewa people, although pumpkin seeds are readily available in most households and on the market. If the younger ones don’t take part in the preparation, the product might completely disappear and be forgotten. The skill needs to be learned. The pumpkin seeds are readily available in most of the households and on the market. The only way to protect the product is to teach the new generations how to prepare and preserve it, in particular by referring to the knowledge of the elderly women of the community.

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Production area:Eastern province

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Nominated by:Beatrice Phiri