Arrowroot (Nduma)

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Calling this precious gift given to us by God arrowroot seems almost unfair because if you are from Kenya then we call it ‘Nduma.’ Arrowroot always seems to confuse people because no one has ever been sure which of the rhizomes goes by that name. Therefore, for the purposes of the few Kenyans who will read this, we are talking about Nduma.  Nduma is a very famous breakfast meal in Kenya and when you have been raised in some villages in Kenya, it’s the only thing that you know for breakfast. That is until you come to Nairobi and find meat-pie eating slay queens or KDF-eating ninjas. The importance of Nduma to especially aged women in Kenya goes to the point where no one would buy Ndumas unless they are from Kakamega, Gatundu or Kirinyaga. There is even a place in Kirinyaga called Nduma.photophoto credit

Internet sources say that Nduma was discovered in America some 7,000 years ago but Kenyans will tell you that we had been eating Nduma even before our ancestors were born. In Kenya it’s mostly boiled and taken as breakfast while sometimes it is cooked with potatoes as a meal for lunch or supper. It would surprise some Kenyans to realize that apart from being eaten, it has other uses. These include uses in cosmetics, paper manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, not that anyone would actually experiment with it instead of eating it in their homes.

Many mothers will tell you that Nduma is healthy for your life especially if she still lives in Kirinyaga and she knows you take KDF or bread for breakfast. Last month, my mother brought a sack of Ndumas to my house and I couldn’t be more grateful. At least now I can be assured of full stomach throughout the day when I attend all these classes. And not only that, according to both my mother and google, it can serve as a healthier cornstarch and I can even thicken my stew with its powder. Apart from that, when I eventually get a baby, I can use it in baby formula. It is also medicine for digestive troubles preventing the constant constipation. And yea, for those looking to drop a few pounds, lower their cholesterol, improve their metabolism and have proper circulation, Nduma is the way to go.

As my cousin from Kirinyaga, farmers and business people in Kenya have realized the Nduma market is here to stay and offer a fortune for them. The prizes of Nduma are ridiculous especially when you compare them to that of bread. For only three pieces of Nduma in the market, you will have to chuck a whole 100 shillings especially when the seller tells you of the benefits and that it is either from Kirinyaga, Kakamega or Gatundu. For those who have hotels, it’s even more profitable. A very small piece of breakfast Nduma goes for 50-100/- shillings if you buy it at that famous place in Nairobi called ‘Growers’ near Odeon. However, the same piece can go for up to 250 shillings in Sarova.

Well, so long as the powdery, firm and sweet Nduma from Kakamega, Gatundu and Kirinyaga continues to exist Kenyans will continue to enjoy it. But we also have to call out those that grow in the sewage of Githurai and then they are branded Kirinyaga! That is sad!

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