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Friday, January 30, 2015

How a Plant Won a War

Once Upon A Time.  Long, Long Ago...

The Lhomwe tribe of Mozambique was living peacefully in the land that is now southern Malawi.  They lived the life of farmers. They built their homes from adobe mud, and their roofs from the local grass.  They grew fields of cassava, "dimbas" or gardens of vegetables, they hunted and gathered.

Kalongonda also known as Mucuna pruriens 
something horrible happened...

 The Ngoni tribe appeared from the south.  This tribe was running away from the renowned Shaka Zulu of South Africa.  As the Ngoni escaped north, they pillaged and plundered local villages.  They did not request help from the local tribes --  they simply attacked!

The Lhomwe got word that the Ngoni were approaching their village.  Having heard about the fierceness of the Ngoni, they ran off to hide in the "bush."  They left everything behind, including the partially cooked kalongonda.

Now, every member of the Lhomwe knew that you cannot simply eat kalongonda.  You must cook it, rinse it, cook it again, rinse it again etc. All of this work to wash away the poison and achieve nutrition!

The Ngoni did not know this.  They charged into the Lhomwe village.  They looked around for anything that they could steal.  Anything they could eat.

That is when the Ngoni discovered the kalongonda, still warm in the pots that the women of the Lhomwe were using to cook it.  Still warm over the fires.

The Ngoni ate.  The Ngoni died.

And this, my children, is the story of how a greedy, fearsome tribe was brought low by a bean.

The morals of the story:  Do not steal.  Ask for help when you need it. Never consume a plant that you do not recognize. It could be poison.

Know your poison:

Note: This is my re-telling of ancient Malawian folklore. I did not invent this story.  

Folklore? Certainly
History? Maybe
A good story?  DEFINITELY!  

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