When I first got the job offer to work on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I was extatic and mildly hesitant. Of course I immediately asked my boss whether there would be sufficient plant based options and he replied with “We have our own organic garden, but mostly everyone eats fish”. The job and the opportunity was simply too incredible to give up, so I figured I would move there and see what the food has in store for me.
What I found out, was unexpected and absolutely astonishing, not only do the Comoros Islands, which are located north of Madagascar and East of the Mozambique coast, have plant based food. They have an exquisite selection of exotic, tropical, unique starches, fruits and vegetables. Therefore, not only do I urge anyone who has not heard of this location to pick up an Atlas or search in Google maps, I highly encourage you to mark the spot as your next holiday destination.
Where is the Comoros?
The Comoros islands comprise of three islands : Grand Comore, Moheli and Anjouan. Their fourth sister island Mayotte is now a French territory creating mild tension between all the inhabitants. These islands are virtually unknown, with Moheli’s landscape particularly well preserved and the ocean around teeming with life.
Do you enjoy hiking? Nature? Snorkeling? Seeing Dolphins? Whales? Manta Rays? Lemurs? Experience a different world of culture? In a place virtually unexplored, untouched location in the world? Because this place rivals the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, the Reefs of Malaysia, the isolation of the Galapagos and the food of a five star restaurant.
Now let me tell you about some of the food here:
What is the food like in the Comoros?
The fruits that grow (Almost) year round:
Amongst the greenery of the rainforest, you will find several species of enormous fruit trees ready to be picked and savoured by humans.
- Bananas (there are up to 12 different types of bananas here)
All pretty typical of tropical locations, not surprising, but hardly stops there.
The starches, that I have never heard of and regret not having in my life sooner.
- Savoury Banana (Plantain)
- Cassava Root
There are 49 known species of Cassava, and is the food that has spread the fastest in the world. In the 17th century, it came from South America and is now one of the biggest staples all over Africa. Some of these species, not only the roots are edible, but the leaves as well.
These Cassava leaves, are often mixed with coconut water and occasionally fresh fish, and create a magnificent green-paste-like dish which tastes like heaven. This protein and carbohydrate packed dish is a standout, the perfect plant based recipe.
Traditional Comorian Diet
The locals here, while looking at me a little strangely at my request to not eat fish, eggs, meat, cheese, milk or butter, have taken it as a challenge to cook up feasts at every opportunity. Various legume dishes cooked with coconut or tomato sauces. Fried bananas with exquisite hot, hot, hot green chilli sauce. Incredible breads made out of coconut milk, paired with mouthwatering dipping sauces. So far, in the two weeks I have been here I am yet to eat the same thing twice, with the turmeric, ginger, cinnamon all brought in fresh from the jungle.
Eating from the earth has never been quite as literal or refreshing. Here there are no need for bio labels or pesticide free signs. Many of the food is foraged straight from the forests, who’s canopies spread like a thick blanket over this volcanic island. The old lava with nutrients from deep within our earth has created thick fertile soils, and the miniscule population of 35,000 mainly depend on fishing and the famous Ilang Ilang flower (made famous by Channel #5) to sustain their economies.
The smiles from everyone I have met here so far, has made me feel welcome and strangely at home in a place where nature truly dominates. So if you are looking for a once in a life time opportunity while eating food that have been plucked from the most beautiful of wilderness, Moheli, the smallest island of the Comoros should be added to everyone’s bucket list.