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Sankofa Garden Homes: Holiday gifts fresh from the garden

CLARENCE GLOVER | 12/18/2017, 11:49 a.m.
As we prepare to engage in gift giving, many of us would not think of giving food as a gift. ...
Professor Freedom presents a gift of collard greens from his Sankofa Garden Home.

Special to The Dallas Examiner

As we prepare to engage in gift giving, many of us would not think of giving food as a gift. I can remember when we would give wrapped fruit baskets with red bows as gifts. While most people did not raise the fruit, it was the fact that the fruit was a healthy gift that reminded us of the fact that food is essential to healthy eating.

Many African Americans 60 and older who lived in the country can remember “the brown bag” we received after the Christmas program where we recited our Christmas speech that we had been learning from memory. Inside “the brown bag” gift was fruit, usually an apple, pear or orange, and pecans and peppermint sticks. Simple though they were, I have met many African Americans of my generation who still remember the brown bags with great fondness. As exciting as it was to get the brown bags, I have come to know the excitement of making and giving them as I still continue this tradition at First African Freedom Church in South Dallas, where I pastor. There are men and women, many of whom are homeless, who remember the tradition from their early years, while the youth of today find the simple gift of the brown bag exciting in an age of materialism and technology.

Now that the “Green Movement” has become popular, many people are looking for ways to be more eco-friendly in how we treat nature and how we eat. In the spirit of Sankofa as DABA people – Descendants of Africans who Built America – we can learn much from our ABAs – Africans who Built America – ancestors. Enslaved Africans from tropical West Africa brought with them a deep appreciation for nature and the knowledge of how to grow many crops. Okra, black-eyed peas, watermelons and yams were just a few of the foods they brought from African during the tragic middle passage journey.

Once in America, they modified other foods and made them a part of their cultural food diet. Among these were collard greens, mustard greens and turnip greens. Using what they had, they would cook them for hours in large pots of water with pork for flavor and enjoy them with yams and hot water corn bread.

Cooking fresh okra

While pork was not good for their health, it provided flavor in the absence of other spices. Today, we need not use pork, given the many ways of seasoning greens now. We can saute them in virgin olive oil with purple onions, red bell pepper, garlic, curry powder and a small amount of water as needed – for pot liquor, of course. Using a mixture of natural herbs and a small amount of sea salt, if desired, topped off with pepper sauce or hot sauce, we can create classic African America greens that are sure to satisfy the palate and be healthy as well.

Rather than going to the mall or grocery store, our Sankofa Gardens Homes can be a great source of wonderful and healthy gifts during this season and beyond. While greens are a wonderful gift, the okra – derived from the West African word “gumbo” – that grows so plentifully during the summer is another great gift to give. As I’ve stated, we cut it while it’s hot and eat it when it’s cold.