Not even Jennifer’s children know where she hides her chikanda.
The small, brownish orchid tubers are highly valued as a cultural delicacy among the Bemba people who live in the Luwingu district of northern Zambia.
They’re mashed with groundnuts to create a dish that’s the consistency of meatloaf, and the result is “really delicious,” says Amy Ickowitz, Senior Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research. “It’s not like anything I’ve ever tasted before.”
Ickowitz and her team had the chance to sample a wide range of traditional dishes using forest foods as part of a research project called Nutrition and Trees in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Luwingu, they interviewed mothers with children under five about what they and their children had eaten the day before, and where the food came from — whether it was bought, grown, farmed or gathered wild. Then, they teamed up with a local nutritionist to organize a series of food fairs around the district, inviting community members to gather to prepare traditional food and compete for prizes.