Fiiye

Ark of taste
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Fiiye is a climbing plant that grows well with plants such as coffee, banana trees and other fruit trees, that act as supports. It is a variety of yam (Dioscorea esculenta L.) grown in the Kilimanjaro region. The edible part is the root.

To obtain more fiiye plants, the tuber is cut into four pieces and, before placing each section in the soil, it is disinfected by rubbing with ash and herbs. After two weeks, it is fertilised with some compost mixture containing banana peels and other vegetable waste. The new plants need to be watered (during the dry season) and must be able to climb up a sturdy and tall trunk. The roots grow downwards and the sprout grows upwards, leaving the surface free, which is why it is possible to grow other vegetables around them. After six months, the root can be extracted, by digging deeply (by about half a metre) and carefully around the plant, to avoid cutting it or scratching it. The root, properly cleaned of soil and washed, can be cooked exactly like potatoes.

Fiiye is highly appreciated by the elders of the Chagga tribe (a people that speak a Bantu language and live on the Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru) who prefer the flavour of this tuber over that of potatoes.

There are various traditional techniques of preparation. The most widespread involves digging a hole in the ground, burning some small branches and then placing the tubers (with skin) on the embers, and covering them with another layer of embers. Every so often, they are turned so they roast evenly on all sides. To check for doneness, a small sharp stick is inserted into the pulp. Once it comes out completely dry, the fiiye is done. At this point, the surface is gently rubbed with a kitchen knife, to eliminate the brown skin and get to the white pulp. Then it is cut into slices and served with fermented milk or alone, with a drink made with bananas, or corn, or millet. It is traditionally served on banana leaves (first smoked on the fire, so they become as hard as a sheet of aluminium). Another recipe involves boiling the fiiye in water (normally in an earthenware casserole), with the skin here as well. Once cooked, the peel is removed, and it is served with yoghurt, milk or with meat or fish stew. The third recipe is a vegetable-based one: the root is peeled, cut into cubes and cooked with tomatoes, onions, carrots and other vegetables.

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Territory

StateTanzania
Region

Arusha

Kilimanjaro

Mbeya

Other info

Categories

Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Chagga and Meru tribes
Nominated by:Aikande Kileo