The AmaXhosa tribes Autumn and Winter food delicacies

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

Isophi /Isophu (Mealies and Beans in soup form): Is made with mielies mixed with sugar beans – it has more depth than mngqusho. It is one of the traditional winter dishes made from the first harvest of the mielie crop, and the maize is carefully selected. It shouldn’t be hard nor soft but perfect for chewing without the maize squished the maize during the cooking process.
Umngqusho onembotyi (Samp and Beans): this is a favourite and well known Xhosa dish enjoyed throughout the year, it is with samp and sugar beans.
Umngqusho omhlophe (Samp): Plain samp that can be cooked with a modern twist making it either creamy or spicy

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.

Umfino: This dish is made from tender young leaves from pumpkin/wild watermelon and mixed with grind corn. The tender vegetables can also be boiled and enjoyed alone without ground corn.

My all-time favourites are:

1. Umqa in both variations made from pumpkin and wild watermelon
2. Umfino
3. Isophi


Now I have a question for you all, what food is eaten in your culture in winter and Autumn?

Nothando Bizana
Nothando Bizana


  1. Yolisa Qunta
    May 10, 2020 / 6:10 pm

    Sounds delicious!!!!! I’ll have to try isophu soon

    • Cwayita Bizana
      May 10, 2020 / 6:15 pm

      You won’t regret it 🙂 Thank you for reading.

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