Growing up in the ’80s in a rural village of Eastern Cape called Tora in eNgcobo, mealies formed a significant part of our diet at home. Most of the traditional vegetables that we ate while growing up in a Xhosa household was either eaten alone or mixed with grounded corn. With autumn and winter seasons upon us, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of the traditional Xhosa cuisines enjoyed by our tribe during these seasons. Our maternal grand-parents led a prayer movement which they hosted on their plot. Members of the prayer movement from far-away villages would occasionally come live with us on our plot. I remember with nostalgia the delicacies they would cook especially during autumn and winter.
Typical Autumn/Winter Xhosa cuisine include the following:
Umqa: This soft delicacy comes in two variations. The sweet version made from pumpkin and the bland version made from wild melon. The best way to make both versions of this dish is with roughly ground corn. Umqa wethanga: A sweet-tasting table pumpkin mixed with ground corn dish. Umqa womxoxozi: A bland tasting meal made out of wild watermelon or African melon. This melon grows in the maize fields pretty much like pumpkin with tender green vegetables. We ate Umqa womxoxozi before the reaping/harvesting season in March
▪ Umbona omtsha bhaqolo (First harvest mealies): Succulent boiled mielies -‘First Fruits’ from the maize garden before harvesting begins, they’re fresh and succulent and is boiled then emits a distinct smell that reminds any Xhosa person of home.
My all-time favourites are:
1. Umqa in both variations made from pumpkin and wild watermelon
Now I have a question for you all, what food is eaten in your culture in winter and Autumn?