Sounbareh (Mandingo), Kainda (Krio)
Sounbareh (Mandingo), Kainda (Krio) Between the months of November and December, the honey locust tree that grows wild in the grasslands of Sierra Leone, mainly in the northern Koinadugu district, produces a flat pod about 30-60 cm long. This leguminous fruit matures between March and April, and is collected by the local people to prepare a dried, fermented version of the fruit which is then ground into a powder called sounbareh in the Mandingo language or kainda in the Krio language. The beans or seeds harvested from the tree’s pods are shelled by hand, and the pulp is washed away from the seeds. The seeds are fermented together with wood ash to help decompose the thick mesocarp (or pith), leaving only the brown cotyledon (inner seed part). These parts of the seed are then boiled over a high flame for an entire day, and the boiled seeds are then re-fermented for another three days. Next, they are dried in the sun for several days until they obtain a thick, black color and a very low moisture content that allows them to be stored for months or even years. At this stage, the sounbareh or kainda can be sold, kept or prepared for final consumption. Men and young people harvest the honey locust pods, but women preform the processing, which takes place during the dry season. Among the Mandingo people, this product has tremendous value in their everyday diet as an important ingredient or a main side dish or sauce for the day. For consumption, the dried black beans are further roasted in a small pot and pounded in a mortar together with ingredients such as pepper, salt and other flavorings, then sprinkled on the top of cooked rice. This aromatic powder can also be added to green vegetables such as spinach, potato and cassava leaves. Locust bean and pepper powder can also be exclusively used to make soup, especially when preparing meals for very important guests together with fowl, bush meat or fish. This product has long been associated with the Mandingo tribe, originally from Guinea and since migrating into Sierra Leone for trade and religious reasons. The locust bean powder’s long shelf life makes it ideal for long journeys. It is also believed to have medicinal uses as a purgative and helping in digestion. Among the polygamous Mandingo people, women often prepare foods with the locust bean and pepper powder to gain status with their husbands. Selling the dried, fermented honey locust beans provides a source of income for Mandingo women who sell the product to traders and members of other tribes from far off areas where the honey locust tree does not grow. The production technique has even spread to some nearby tribes. However, overharvesting of the pods from wild trees and loss of trees to fire threaten continued production. The current lack of cultivated trees and a limited wild population mean that honey locust trees may need to be intentionally cultivated to guarantee further production in the future.