Feijão Ervilha, Feijão congo
Feijão congo, is also known as feijão ervilha, meaning pea, because the beans are big, round and green, on first impression more similar to peas than beans. The bush can grow taller than a meter and anchors to the ground with strong, long roots, which it uses to get to water even in difficult conditions. It is highly diffused all around the world – in anglophone Africa it is known as Angola pea, and in French-speaking parts as pois d’Angole – and well liked for its high protein content and resistance to diseases and legume-attacking funghi. It is a strong coriacea that resists in dry and arid climates, much better than other beans which can be found on the archipelago, like the feijão manteiga.
Legumes are a staple in Cape Verdean gastronomy, but nowadays the population is more and more drawn to industrial products, as the consumption is more simple and immediate. On the islands of Santo Antão and Fogo, the driest of the Cape Verdean islands, canned beans are often preferred to the low yielding ones grown in the local vegetable gardens, and consuming them has become a habit. This is why the congo bean is very important, because it can serve as a contrast to canned products; and on the northern plateau of the Island of Santo Antão people prefer to harvest the fruits of the plants between April and June to buying imported cans!
The national dish of Cape Verde is Cachupa, a symbol of Cape Verdean culture and the sodade of many an emigrants living abroad. It is basically a stew made with beans, fava beans and ground corn, in its poor version, and is eaten from breakfast to dinner, if needed. There is also a richer version, to which a fish or meat (a sacrilege, a deviation from its origins) is added.