Morogo magic: the budget-friendly indigenous ingredient

By Mokgadi Itsweng, 15 April 2023

Fresh, sautéed or preserved for later use – morogo are on Mokgadi Itsweng’s menu at the beginning of the year. Not only is it an incredible ingredient, but it also helps reduce food waste.

Nothing says veggie heaven to me like having access to an abundance of morogo because it is in season now. This means I get these leafy greens at a good price and at the peak of their nutritional value. Growing up with a granny who had her own veg garden meant that I learnt early how to eat the whole vegetable, including its leaves, and how to forage for wild, seasonal morogo such as amaranth leaves (thepe) and blackjack leaves (mushidzi).

CHECK OUT: 3 vegetarian recipes from Mokgadi Itsweng’s ‘Veggielicious’

Eating beetroot leaves, pumpkin or baby marrow leaves (lerotse) and okra (delele) is an old food practice that has largely been lost because we’ve become so detached from the origins of our food, and we buy our vegetables with their leaves removed. But these leaves are not only rich in iron, fibre, folate, and vitamins, they’re also delicious, and eating them reduces food waste. I use them raw in smoothies and salads, cooked as a sauce for pasta, as a side to my ting pap, or for stuffed dumplings.

Baby marrow leaf morogo

Find the recipe for baby marrow leaf morogo here. 

I often cook most of these greens in the same way: sautéing them in some olive oil with garlic, red peppers and onion. If I am making pumpkin or marrow leaves, I add some chopped marrows or small green pumpkin to the mixture before adding chopped tomatoes and stock. This recipe is the base for so many delicious dishes because it can be made in bulk, portioned and frozen for later use. My granny also taught me to preserve the leaves.

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She would make mokhuse by drying the leaves in the sun on a metal sheet for a couple of days, then pack them into bags to be enjoyed during winter when these greens are not available. Living in a townhouse in Johannesburg means I can’t use the sun to preserve my greens, so instead I make jars of spicy morogo pickle, a condiment that’s a permanent feature in my pantry and lasts for up to a year. I eat it with everything, and it means I can have my favourite greens all year round. But in summer, I celebrate the fresh leaves with this quick, easy recipe that’s packed with incredible flavour and goodness.

Mokgadi Itsweng

Article by Mokgadi Itsweng

Former food editor of True Love magazine, Mokgadi has worked in the food industry for more than 17 years and is the author of Veggielicious – a collection of plant-forward recipes that’ll encourage even the pickiest eater to eat more veg. She is the Creative Director and head chef for Lotsha Home Foods and a member of The Chef’s Manifesto.
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    Natasha Hariram
    20 April 2023

    Love it, beautifully written 💗