Kenyan and Dutch chefs will be staging a cooking jamboree to showcase potato dishes at the University of Eldoret Trade Fair scheduled for September 22nd to 24th to showcase the various ways of preparing potatoes.
According to the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi that is sponsoring the cooking master class to encourage Kenyans to eat more potatoes, this could be the beginning of making the crop a choice food to boost production for the benefit of farmers, improve food security and increase economic growth.
Even as demand for potato continues to soar due to a growing middle class fuelled by devolution leading to diversification to ‘class foods’, experts argue that Kenyans have not been innovative in cooking potatoes and are stuck to chipping, crisping and mashing despite there being over 100 different ways of cooking a potato ranging from cheesy mashed potatoes to potato cupcakes.
The invite-only cooking jamboree participants will be trained on how to transform local produce into extraordinary dishes in practical sessions by renowned Let’s Cook TV host Susan Kamau, award-winning Chef Ali L’artiste who has appeared in international TV cookery shows in the Middle East and Culinary conventions in America and Netherland’s based Chef Marco Blok.
“At the food court we intend to showcase the numerous ways Kenyans can cook different potato varieties. What has traditionally happened is that people use any potato varieties for all kinds of cooking. The same potato varieties are used for mashing and for crisping. We intend to show why this should not be the case,” said Susan Kamau.
Over the past two years, there have been renewed efforts at revamping potato production in Kenya as the tuber is considered the most viable alternative to maize following recent attacks on the staple by viral diseases like the Maize Lethal Necrosis threatening the country’s food security.
According to potato promoters, the crop is a better option due to its acceptability across social classes and age, especially among children and the elderly who cannot chew maize. It is also more nutritious. Adopted fully, the potato can reduce dependability on maize releasing the staple for animal feed. At the same time, potato peels and the very small tubers can be manufactured into animal feed and in more advanced applications makes biofuels.
According to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization head of the Tigoni Potato Centre Dr Jackson Kabira, potato has a higher productivity per square metre of land than maize coupled with a shorter maturity period giving it many advantages over maize as a food security crop.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the National Potato Council of Kenya estimates indicate about 800,000 farmers grow potatoes valued Sh50 billion annually.
Netherlands is the largest exporter of seed potato in the world with more than 630 registered varieties, 33 of which have been registered in Kenya in the last three years.
Among a raft of measures being undertaken to boost production is new varieties, mechanization, new growing methods, storage, processing and consumption. The objective is to raise yields from seven tons per hectare to a minimum of 40 tons.