Fruits and Vegetables "In Season"
Some of you are old enough to remember when various fruits and vegetables were only available at certain times during the year. When strawberries were "in season" you ate lots of them, but after that, you really could not get them. With modern transportation and ways to keep food fresh, you can get strawberries any time of the year in American supper markets. Here things are like they were in the old days, unless you are in Ouaga or in one of the towns along the railway. Even there you can get strawberries only about a month out of the year.
Right now, it is mango season, which started in April with little yellow mangoes. They were so small you really could not get much fruit off the pit. I liked to roll them on the counter under pressure, then squeeze the pulp and juice out into a bowl. It was kind of like eating apple sauce, except that you did not have to cook them and they did not need any sugar to sweeten them. Next came the green mangoes that are like those you might see in the grocery store in America. You can cut the fruit from around the pit, score the fruit and bend the skin so you could eat it like Annie and Jay were doing in my blog about light, or even cut it into slices, like these.
When things as in season lots of people sit by the side of the road to sell what they have harvested.
And like this when the fruit is ripening.
Bananas grow here if you have a good source of water. Here are some growing on a plantation next to a river in the south west.
They are also imported throughout the year from Ivory Coast and other neighboring countries that get more rain.
Another fruit that grows well here are papayas. They look like this on a tree. When you cut them open they are yellow-orange and have black seeds in the center that remind me of fish eggs. Maybe you know the fruit, but I had never eaten it as a fresh fruit before I came here.
In the bigger cities you can find pineapples, oranges, apples, plantains and coconuts all year round. A seasonal fruit that is somewhat different from what we have is what they call grapes. They grow on a tree, not a vine, and have large pits with very little fruit. On the other hand, in a country where there is not much to eat right now, people are enjoying them. These are not really ripe. When they turn reddish-purple they are said to be sweet.
In the villages, vegetables are also seasonal. People are busy in their fields during the rainy season, but after the harvest they start doing gardening. From November through February or so you can find lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, and carrots at the marché. Even now I can find cucumbers, onions, cabbages, and egg plant. Here you see some squash, cabbages and egg plants.
Stuff for sauces
One of the more popular kinds of sauce, which I mentioned in the last blog, is referred to as gumbo sauce. It is made from okra, like this man is holding. You can see the field of gumbo growing behind him. I do not care for the sauce because of the slimy texture, but you can cut the okra into little round wheels, dip them in some kind of breading and fry them, just to cook then a bit, and they are not slimy.
Most sauces are made from greens of some kind. Tops of plants are often used, but the thing that surprised me was the number of trees that have leaves that are edible and nutritious. I suspect that people figured out what could be eaten in hard times like we are having right now because of the lack of rain. People experimented with anything that was growing and found some that could be eaten. When I visited a garden with a friend she saw a man pulling weeds. One of the plants he was about to throw away was one the people of her ethnic group had found was good to eat and she bought a bunch from him.
Selling food to travelers
When you are traveling on a bus, a bush taxi or car, if you stop near a bus station (gare) or have to stop to pay a toll, your vehicle will be surrounded by women and girls (and occasionally men) wanting to sell you something through the window that you can eat or drink as you travel. Popular items are sachets of cold water, apples, hard boiled eggs, and bread.
You also might want to buy something to take to the person you are visiting, or to take home with you, like onions or a live chicken.
Desserts are not a concept here, but there are treats you might serve at a party. The most usual are popcorn and the shrimp chips we find in Chinese restaurants. The shrimp chips come as small disks that puff up and get crispy when you drop them in hot oil. I was a bit surprised to find them here, but a lot of Chinese things are exported to Burkina Faso.
Another treat (no photos of these, sorry) is called gateau, that is, cake. It is really a kind of pretty stiff dough which is patted out to the thickness of about an inch and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes that are fried in oil. The other thing is a dough that is dropped by spoonfuls into the hot oil. They come out something like glazed doughnut holes, but a bit bigger and greasier, without the sugar coating.