In the Congo, the cassava plant is also treasured for its leaves.
Around the world, the cassava plant is prized for its tubers. But across Central Africa, the plant’s leaves are an essential source of protein, calcium, and vitamins A and C. This is especially true in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a dish of the boiled greens—known as saka-saka or pondu—is a staple that makes appearances at regular meals and special occasions.
To prepare pondu, one must first clean the leaves and crush them into a paste either using a mortar and pestle or machine (the latter usually requires a trip to the market, where a vendor will crush the leaves for a fee). After boiling the resulting paste until soft, cooks add in garlic, chile, spring onions, eggplant, palm oil, and peanut butter. The result is a hearty, lightly spiced dish that’s as comforting as it is nutritious. For special occasions, pondu might include smoked fish, sardines, or small minnow-esque creatures known as ndakala.