Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/introducing-tomatoes-to-hmong-women-in-northwest-vietnam-2/
Hmong women transplant tomatoes in their garden.
Spanish conquerors encountering tomato in Central America in the 15th century thought the suspicious-looking berries must be poisonous. Five centuries later, a Hmong woman in the northern uplands of Vietnam was equally suspicious of the tomato plants in her backyard garden. Never having eaten tomato before, she thought the fruit was sour and malodorous at first.
The plants were introduced as part of a pilot to test improved home gardens for isolated communities of ethnic minorities in the northern uplands of Vietnam. Hmong ethnic people typically live in remote areas with limited market access, and only collect vegetables from the borders of their fields or from the forest. Vegetable consumption is low and more than 25% of children under five are malnourished.
Against this background, Humidtropics researchers from AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) in partnership with the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute (FAVRI) piloted the concept of encouraging people in the area to grow a diverse range of fruit and vegetables near their homes year-round. The pilot took place in Thong village, Muong Bon commune, Mai Son district, Son La province, Vietnam. An open-pollinated variety of tomato was tested as part of the intervention, as tomato is rich in vitamin C and lycopene.
Hmong women practice cooking tomatoes during the training course on nutrition education.
Small-scale home gardening was introduced in August 2015 in a training program that targeted women, as they are in charge of food preparation for the family. The women learned how to grow various vegetables and prepare them in ways to preserve their nutritive value. Recipes for tomato salads, tomato egg drop soup, and fried egg with tomato—a popular dish in lowland areas of Vietnam—were shared and the women tasted the new dishes together. Most liked the new recipes and were eager to grow more tomatoes in their gardens.
The introduction of novel crops with nutritive value, in combination with training on nutrition and food preparation, can create enthusiasm for home gardens and promote greater diversity in diets.
Blog by To Thi Thu Ha, Horticulturist and AVRDC Project Coordinator for Central Mekong. Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photos by Hoang Minh Chau/FAVRI.