Increasing consumption of indigenous vegetables finds its root in the city as vendors smile to the bank

Nairobi residents for a long time have been known as the pacesetters when it comes to embracing modernity while ditching the African cultures. A tour around the city will give one an insight of this as you encounter a growing enthusiasm towards exotic cultures, depicted through multiple visible lifestyles.

However, some traditional cultures never seem to give way for new lifestyles that easily as they rejuvenate just as soon as one realizes that they have missed a part of them. One such is the touch many Kenyans have with the traditional delicacies, which in this case is the indigenous vegetables.

A walk in downtown Nairobi, you will find indigenous vegetable vendors’ stalls crowded by buyers trying to get home with these herbs. According to one of the vendors Gladys Moraa, people are slowly shifting from the common exotic vegetables such as cabbage and sukuma wiki (kales) back to the traditional vegetables. “People prefer these vegetables than the exotic ones because of their nutritious and medicinal value,” said Moraa.

The vendors sell an average of four types of vegetables ranging from cowpeas (kunde/egesare), African nightshade (managu), jute mallow (mrenda), vegetable amaranth (mchicha), African spinach (enderema/ndemra), spiderplant (chinsaga), African kale (kandhira), slender leaf (mitoo) among others.

The vegetables which mostly come from western parts of the country especially in the Kisii region have gained massive consumer demographics in the recent past. “We sell more as compared to other vendors,” said Moraa, “We even have orders from people in other professional fields like doctors and also from hotels.” She continued.

Due to the high demand of these vegetables, the vendors have been walking home smiling. They are able to sustain themselves comfortably from the sales. According to another vendor, Karen Kemunto, through the business she is able to take her children to good schools while paying her rent in a comfortable neighborhood in the city. “In a week, I can make sh20000 where I am able to educate my children, pay my rent and cater for my needs,” she said.

According to the vendors the business of selling the indigenous vegetables provides them what they believe they would not get from employment.

Despite the price of these indigenous vegetables being comparatively higher, it has not deterred consumers from opting otherwise. “I cannot resist the urge to buy these vegetables, I simply like the tastes and believe they are healthier to consume.” A regular buyer we met at one of the stalls said.

Everybody buys these vegetables. According to Karen Kemunto, the vegetables are not a preserve a certain class of people. “Low income customers buy according to their means while high income customers buy in bulk as they are able to store them in refrigerators,” said Karen.

For some, consuming these vegetables drive them to nostalgia as they are taken back to growing up in the countryside where such vegetables were a regular recipe.

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