Leafy vegetables that are cultivated or grow spontaneously in fields and field margins can be great sources of essential micronutrients but they are often underutilized for various reasons, including diminishing knowledge on their use. To encourage communities make use of their local agrobiodiversity for more balanced diets, workshops were held in three communities in Chiquimula district of Guatemala on nutritious recipes featuring local leafy vegetables.
The recommendations shared with the communities drew directly from community-specific results of a recent household diet survey and nutrition analyses of local leafy vegetables. In the diet survey, women recalled the food groups their household had consumed in the past 24 hours. The results revealed that effectively all households had eaten cereals and pulses but far fewer had consumed vegetables, fruits, and animal products-food groups that provide vital micronutrients and proteins to complement the major staples. Local vegetables used by the communities were collected for nutrition analysis, including moringa (Moringa olefera), bledo (Amaranthus hybridus), hierbamora (Solanum americanum), chipilín (Crotolaria longirostrata), and chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius). All the vegetables had good nutrition value but chaya stood out for its high content of protein, iron, and zinc.
Two of the recipes shared in the workshops included this nutritious leady vegetable-chaya or Mayan spinach -as a feature ingredient. One of the recipes instructed was chaya tortillas, which is an enriched version of the main source of carbohydrates that rural families eat on daily bases in Guatemala. Tortillas are so important that in food insecurity vulnerable areas (as the communities participating in the project), sometimes they are the only food families consume in one day. The participants appreciated the taste of the nutrient-rich green tortillas and were keen to make them at home.
A manual with the chaya tortilla recipe and other recipes using local agrobiodiversity was delivered to the workshop participants in each community (58 women in total). The booklet was elaborated by Maria Fernanda Maldonado and Licda. Nidia Pereira from the Nutrition Department of Universidad de Valle del Guatemala. The booklet, made using simple text and graphics to be more accessible to illiterate people, also covers good practices for better nutrition. It can be downloaded by this link.