Our Farm Correspondent Judoemue Kollie gave our readers a great treat yesterday when he presented on the Observer Farm Page an impressive display of packaged food products made from the versatile cassava crop.
Cassava is found in many countries, especially in West Africa, and is the most important food crop besides rice. In many countries in the West African sub-region, the staple food is rice. Next to rice is cassava, a tuber which is prepared as food in a variety of ways. Cassava is first pealed, boiled and eaten just like that, either with salt, for those who cannot afford anything else, or with palm oil, fish, meat gravy or stew.
The next way to prepare cassava is as dumboy, where the cassava is boiled and beaten in a wooden mortar. The dumboy is then eaten with clear water soup and a variety of meat products. Dumboy is eaten all over Liberia. But our brothers and sisters from Grand Bassa County are best known for dumboy because that is one of their favorite foods. When Madam Julia Duncan Cassell was Superintendent of Grand Bassa County (she is now Minister of Gender and Development), every year she organized what she called a “Dumboy festival” that lured hundreds of Bassonians to their county capital, Buchanan and other parts of the county, including Upper Buchanan and Edina, to join the festival and treat themselves with their most favorite bowl.
Deepah is another popular cassava dish. The cassava is slashed into flat pieces and dried, then cooked with water to become a colloid and eaten with soup or a sauce.
Cassava is also the most favorite source of food for the people of Nimba County. They prepare it, unlike dumboy, much thicker, and they call it gaegbah (GB) or baekpo. It is thicker than dumboy because it is prepared with less water, and eaten with bare hands. Gari or farina is another highly popular form of cassava food. The cassava is pealed, dried, grated and parched. It may be eaten with a little water, sugar and milk; or boiled and eaten with stew, such as palava sauce or okra sauce, bitter leaf or egusi. Cassava may also be fried. The Christian Baker restaurant, The Rooster, on 10th Street and Tubman Boulevard, Sinkor, sold this as “Bong fries” in the 1970s and 80s; some restaurants, such as Evelyn’s, still do.
We are reflecting today on cassava in order to encourage Michael Dey and his organization ZOA-Liberia to keep up their great work in supporting local farmers in the processing and packaging of cassava into several food products. In this endeavor, they are not only demonstrating the varieties of ways cassava may be preserved, but also the many forms in which cassava can reach our tables. This is nothing short of revolutionary; and all of us, including our marketers, stores and supermarkets, should buy these products for reselling and usage in our homes, hotels and restaurants. We suggest that ZOA should engage in serious advertising of their farmers’ processed cassava foods so that the general public may become more familiar with them and know how to find and buy them. We further urge ZOA and other entrepreneurs to try processing, through bottling, canning and packaging, other Liberian foods, including orange and other citrus fruits, tomato, almond, mango (including ‘German plum’) and some of our many greens.
This may be the beginning of the development of Liberia’s agro-industry, for which we have waited for generations. ZOA-Liberia has proven that we are capable of engaging in these industries; and we should give them and others every encouragement.