Food and Selected Dishes

Botswana's semi-arid climate limits the range of crops. However, there is an abundant variety in the market, either grown locally under irrigation or imported from neighbouring countries. Sorghum and maize are the main staple crops. In addition there is a wide variety of beans and other food crops.

Botswana's small population and abundant land has enabled the country to become a leading producer of high quality beef from naturally raised cattle. Lamb, mutton, chicken and other types of meat are also readily available.

Food Varieties

Cereals

Sorghum, maize, millet, wheat, rice, and other types of cereals which are not grown locally are readily available.

Legumes

There are numerous types of beans readily available such as cow peas, ditloo, letlhodi and groundnuts.

Vegetables

Commercially grown vegetables such as spinach, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and others are readily available.

In addition, water melons which are widely believed to have originated from Botswana, are abundant during the right season. There is also another variety of melon, known locally as lerotse or lekatane, which is used in various ways and to complement several local dishes. Other types of melons grow wild, particularly in the sandy desert areas and are an important water and food source for inhabitants of those areas.

Some vegetables which grow in the wild are unfortunately only available seasonally. The latter, the most popular of which are rothwe and thepe, are a welcome addition to the national dishes. Dried bean leaves are also a favourite national dish.

Wild Fruits

In a good rainy season, there are usually plenty of fruits and tubers, which are a good food source for both man and animal alike. In many parts of Botswana, the following can be harvested, seasonally: Moretlwa, Morula, Morama, Motsotsojane, Mmupudu, Kgengwe, Serowa.

However, due to increasing human population and general environmental degradation, some fruit trees and tubers are slowly disappearing.

Meat

Beef is a national favourite and is consumed in large quantities particularly during weddings and other ceremonies. Goat meat, another national favourite, is followed, in terms of popularity, by free-range chicken and lamb. River fish is also available amongst communities which live along or near rivers.




Imported Foods

Botswana imports a wide variety of foods which can not be grown in the country because of the generally semi-arid climate. They include wheat, a variety of spices, rice, pasta, apples, bananas and many types of fruits.

Drinks and Beverages

A good number of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages is factory-produced in Botswana. The latter include brands such as Fanta, Coke, Castle, Lion and other lagers. Besides the above, milk is readily available. Milk is also fermented and drained to make madila (sour milk), which is a favourite additive to porridge. Madila can also be eaten on its own.

A non-alcoholic home-made drink, Ginger, is a national favourite which is used a lot in big ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. The main ingredients are ground ginger, tartaric acid, cream of tartar and sugar, and it is usually flavoured with pineapple, raisins, or fresh oranges.

There are various traditionally produced alcoholic drinks. Bojalwa ja Setswana (the beer of Batswana) is brewed from fermented sorghum seeds. Other tribes, like Bakalanga, use lebelebele (millet). A commercially produced and packaged beer, Chibuku, brewed from either maize or sorghum, is a favourite drink particularly in the villages, towns, and in some parts of the city. Chibuku is also brewed in other neighbouring countries such as Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Khadi, which is brewed from various ingredients, the healthiest of which is wild berries, is also a widely consumed alcoholic drink amongst the low income groups, in particular.

There are also a number of other local brews with a remarkably high alcohol content. Although consumption of the latter is not prohibited by law, they are a real compromise on the health of the consumers. The most lethal, known as tho-tho-tho, is distilled from a sorghum concoction and can have over 80% alcohol content. Others, which are brewed over-night from mostly yeast and sugar combinations, have such a high alcohol content that they go by ominous names such as o lala fa (you sleep right here!), chechisa (hurry-up!), laela mmago (say good bye to your mother), monna-tota (real man), motse o teng godimo (there is home in heaven), and so forth. Other less harmful brews are made from wild fruits such as morula. They are, however, very seasonal.

Selected Dishes and Beverages


Meat Dishes

The most popular meat dishes are: seswaa, serobe, chicken, oxtail, segwapa, and barbecue beef.

Seswaa
, also known as Chotlho, is the most popular traditional meat dish which is enjoyed in most ceremonies. Meat is cooked (by men usually) in three-legged cast iron pots, then chopped up with a sizeable wooden spoon until it is soft. Only salt and water are added to the dish and any other spices would be 'taboo'.

Another popular dish is serobe. The intestines and selected internal parts of a goat, sheep or cow are cleaned up and cooked (together with the trotters, in the case of sheep or goat). They are then chopped up into small pieces and cooked once again until they reach the right stage.

The traditionally grown chicken is generally considered to be much better tasting than a commercially grown one. Cooking the traditional chicken for a visitor is a memorable demonstration of hospitality towards the person.

The chicken also makes an excellent mofago (food provision for a long journey). Except for occasional chilli pepper, the chicken is cooked with only salt and water. Cooking the chicken over open fire in a three-legged cast iron pot gives it the best taste.

Oxtail cooked in various ways, is also one of the favourite meat dishes.

Because of the abundance in Botswana of various types good quality meat, beef barbecue and sun-dried beef (segwapa) are favourite forms of food for entertainment. The segwapa snack goes very well with alcoholic drinks.

Bogobe (Porridge) Dishes

The basic way of cooking bogobe (porridge) is to add the main ingredient, sorghum, maize or millet flour into boiling water and to stir the mixer into a semi-soft paste. It is then left to cook slowly. There are however various way of giving the bogobe (porridge) an unforgettable taste as follows:

- Fermented sorghum or maize meal porridge, known as ting, is a popular dish as part of breakfast. It is usually made lighter with milk, and sugar added if it is for breakfast. The heavier version of ting is taken with meat and sometimes with vegetables as a lunch or dinner meal.

- Other favourite ways of preparing bogobe include cooking it with sour milk with a cooking melon (lerotse), or in a combination of sour milk and lerotse. The dish is known as tophi by the Kalanga tribe.

Dikgobe / Lehata (mixed beans)

The dish is a mixture of beans cooked with maize or sorghum or samp (processed maize). Other ingredients are salt, a bit of fat or oil. It can be taken with fresh milk or meat dishes.

Vegetable Dishes

The traditional favourite vegetables are cooked and dried bean leaves and two wild vegetables known as rothwe and thepe. Because the three vegetables are only found during the rainy season, they are collected, cooked, salted, dried and stored for use during the dry season. Other traditional delicacies are delele, another wild vegetable, and pumpkin leaves.

There are various ways of preparing the dried vegetables but the most common are to add cooking oil, tomatoes, onions, ground peanuts, hot pepper or other spices to the soaked and boiled vegetable.

Other vegetables such as spinach, cabbage etc are prepared as side dishes for the main bogobe (porridge) dish.

Bread Dishes

Although bread-flour is not part of the staple diet, it has been imported and used in Botswana for a very long time. There are therefore various bread recipes that Botswana can claim as part of its national dishes. The basic ingredients for bread dishes are bread flour, baking powder or yeast, salt, and sometimes sugar.

The most common bread dishes are matemekwane (dumplings), mmasekuku (firewood cooked), diphaphatha (flat cakes), and magwinya (fat cakes). In each case, bread flour is prepared into a dough which is divided up into sizeable cake portions which are then cooked. Each dish will take a different name, like those above, depending on the style of cooking, such as boiling with meat, or in hot oil, baking in charcoal or firewood, and the shape of the cakes.



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