Ark of taste
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Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), known locally as tzeke, is a variety of the plant found in enormous quantities in the area around Maputo, the capital and largest city of Mozambique, in the extreme south of the country. This is an annual plant with a smooth green stalk. The tender leaves are a more intense shade of green and at times have dark violet spots on them. The flowers could almost be called thorns and are pale green. Originally from Latin America, this product has been known since the time of the Aztecs and Incans, more than 2,000 years ago. The plant is harvested year-round, but more-so during the summer months. The leaves and stalks of the younger plants are also gathered to be eaten. The leaves are cooked in hot water, steamed, or fried. The plant is generally used to prepare salads, as a side dish, or to flavor soups and stews. There is also a rather common condiment made from tzeke, fresh tomatoes and onions. To prepare it, the onions are fried in a skillet with a little bit of oil, and then the tomatoes and tzeke leaves are added with hot water. The mixture is left to cook for about 15 minutes and is then used to accompany either rice or meat. In Mozambique, current agricultural policy is tending towards extensive and intense farming of very few products grown from hybrid seeds or those that are genetically modified. Therefore the food that is available is becoming more and more standardized but not readily available due to its high costs. Tseke, on the other hand, is a wild-growing plant, and thus ensures the supply of fresh food that is not chemically treated, even in times of extreme drought. This is thus an important subsistence product that must be protected and promoted; this could be done by finding new ways to prepare the plant which might help its economic value grow, especially given its importance from a cultural and culinary point of view.

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