By Lorraine Anyango.
Our traditional ways of cooking vegetables are still valid ,we need to embark on the ways our parents prepared vegetables.
These are findings and recommendations from a new study conducted by doctors from Jemo Kenyatta University with support from AgriFose working in partnership with the University of Nairobi, Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) with Kisumu and Nakuru Counties.
Dr. Beatrice Kiage a senior lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University and a nutrition scientist said that they tested vegetables prepared traditionally in the lab and found out that most retained the public health nutrients including zinc calcium and iron, noting that it only Kunde had a reduction of zinc after cooking.
She noted that the introduction of exotic vegetables had negative impacts on the cultivation and consumption of African leafy vegetables, adding that cooking methods were condemned leading to loss of ingredients in the vegetables.
“It’s okay to cook vegetables and add milk while fermenting up to seven days, fermentation helps to lower compounds that inhibit mineral absorption hence very good for those vegetables that contain such chemicals like phytates.” She emphasized.
Dr. Kiage said that fermenting results in an increase of B-carotene, Iron, and Zinc levels in solanum nigrum, Manihot esculenta, crotalaria brevidens, brassica carinata, and basella alba.
She also said that the increase in the B -carotene levels could be attributed to synthesis of the vitamin by microflora during fermentation.
Representatives from the partnering organizations working on African leafy vegetables project have published a manual on the production and utilization of traditional leafy vegetables, the booklet is titled ‘Sustainable Urban Agriculture Food Systems in Kenya.’
In the manual, they recommend the use of pots to prepare vegetables rather than pans, since pots can retain heat and give better simmering effects that help retain steam and prevent loss of volatile nutrients and aroma.
They also state that there is evidence that thermal processing can enhance the bioavailability of vitamins and carotenoids by releasing them from the plant matrix.
The manual discourages chopping before washing since it leads to loss of vitamins C and B complex as they are water-soluble vitamins. It also discourages repeated boiling and frying as it destroys Vitamin C and additional sodium bicarbonate which leads to loss of vitamin B complex, including B1, B2, and niacin.
Apart from the booklet the researchers and extension officers organized food cooking demonstrations for the smallholder farmers and the communities around them while employing methods that preserve the nutrients.
The demonstration activity was held at Destiny Shapers CBO in Nyalenda. The participants were taken through step-by-step preparation of spider plant (Dek), African Nightshade (Osuga), Jute yellow (Murenda), and Amaranth (Ododo).
“Our beds are full of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other lifestyle diseases whose prevalence was very low at the time our grandparents lived, we need to eat what they ate and walk as they did, we need to get back to our roots.” Dr Kiegi said as she taught the participants how to prepare vegetables.
“We build the capacity of smallholder farms to produce green leafy vegetables in Kisumu and Nakuru counties and we have now equipped them with the needed knowledge to implement the same.” Dr. Samuel Omodi the program lead and a lecturer at Maseno University said.
He said that they have also distributed the manual to the two counties to create awareness and encourage the populace to grow and cook African leafy vegetables in a manner that nutrients are preserved.
The team encouraged combining the vegetables while cooking them to make the most of vitamins. Amaranth Is often cooked in combination with other vegetables like the African nightshade, spider plant, or pumpkin leaves.
When consumed in adequate amounts as recommended, traditional leafy vegetables contribute effectively to the prevention and alleviation of micronutrient-associated medical conditions such as night blindness, iron deficiency disorders, and osteoporosis (weak bones and teeth).
The manual is authored by Cecelia M Onyango, Samuel Omondi, Beatrice Kiage, Stephen Kamau, Rose A.Owenga, Peris Ngatho, Stephen Murithii, Nancy Rotich, James O.Samo Benter Oballa, Rael Mwando and Rebecca Wanjiru.