Word of Mouth: Sukuma Wiki

Sukuma wiki, noun: This Swahili word literally means "stretch the week," but it usually refers to a simple dish of cooked greens like kale or collards.

"Stretch the week!" That's what basic cooked greens like these mean to Kenyan people. We ate these cooked greens at nearly every meal. By the end of our trip to the Rift Valley highlands, sukuma wiki was a familiar sight on a loaded lunch plate, along with chapatis, rice, ugali, and irio. But it was also familiar because it was a common point between the Kenyan kitchen and ours: we love greens like these too!

Sukuma, the green vegetable in this sautéed dish, was called spinach by the local cooks, but it wasn't the tender baby spinach we know here. It was actually a much firmer and more flavorful vegetable. It had the same fresh bite and bright green color as the more robust varieties of greens such as kale and collard greens.

Sukuma wiki was usually cooked with a bit of onion and tomato, but it was left very simple with no spices or even a great deal of salt.

It's yet another dish that highlights the simple, fresh approach to cooking in this agrarian region. Nearly everyone in the area has at least a small kitchen garden. If you can afford a house, or even a tent (as we saw in the camps of people internally displaced after the election violence) then you probably have a few stalks of maize or a head of kale struggling up through the dusty ground.

Recipes:
Basic Sukuma Wiki
Sukuma Wiki with a few more spices added in

Watch for another Kenyan treat tomorrow.

More Kenyan food:
Word of Mouth: Ugali
Word of Mouth: Irio

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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