One of the things we brought with us to Africa is our canning supplies. We were told that it is impossible to procure canning jars and canning pots here; people just don’t use them. I can understand why. With a practically year-round growing season, why would you? Not only that, but the amount of fuel required to pressure can (or even water bath can) is beyond the budget of most folks. Thus, dried everything: corn, beans, peas, mushrooms, etc.
But I have to admit, we mzungus like the flavor of fresh. And this mzungu Mama likes the ease of opening a couple of cans and having dinner 2/3 ready, versus spending the day cleaning, soaking, and cooking something…dry. Last but not least, the mzungu palate is a little more varied than that of the locals–we appreciate french beans (commonly called “green beans”), tomatoes, and sweet corn. Sweet corn is unheard of, and green beans and tomatoes are not always in season–and when not, they are more expensive than other food items.
We probably didn’t know it when we packed our gear, but as much as canning is certainly a novelty here, we are really going to appreciate having the technology at our disposal. We have recently bought 39 kilos of french beans for…very cheap…because they are ready and there’s not much market for them among the locals. Those who grow them want to sell them before the crop is spoiled. As well, just yesterday we harvested our crop of sweet corn–yum!! We’re looking forward to tomatoes, but…not yet.
In any case, we’ve already canned 42 quarts of beans and between yesterday and today, the same amount of sweet corn, plus an additional amount of beans.
People keep dropping in to see the process—they are quite intrigued. When we tell them that cans can keep food fresh on the shelf for…years…the typical response is, “Eh?!” (“Eh?” is a general expression of surprise or disbelief.)
Here are some photos from our work today: