Zimbabwe is an agriculture-based country. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard these words I’d be set for a few years at least. Here’s the reality, Zimbabwe is an agriculture-based economy and that should not only be good news to farmers. It also means cheaper produce which is a bonus if you have a business that uses agricultural produce as raw materials. One such business is that of making preserves from fruits and/or vegetables. This includes a wide variety of food items we have become accustomed to using daily including chillies, sauces, preserves, jams, pickles, jellies and purees. What we will discuss in this article is the different type of preserves that you can venture into the business of making.
The terminology can get quite tricky when discussing these preserves so I will try not to get you confused and bogged down in definitions. Collectively we will refer to all of these as preserves because they ultimately preserve food in one way or another. The rest of the definitions will be given as per item. Preserves are a great way for those who are producing fruits and vegetables to embark on value addition to their produce. However, these business ideas can still be applied as completely new standalone business ideas.
Might as well start with my favourite of the bunch. Chilli in this case refers to chilli sauces that are a whole lot easier to make than one would think. That said a good chilli sauce recipe is all about balance and its not just a matter of packing in as much chilli as you can. Birdseye chillies, cayenne chillies, serrano, jalapeno, habanero and many other types of chilli which are popular for sauces grow quite easily and do not require a lot of space. You can make these either as pre-cooking marinades or after cooking sauces and you can find popularity with both. Chilli lovers are a motivated bunch so with the right recipe, you can build a loyal customer base.
I would like to avoid a lengthy discussion on the differences between jams, jellies, marmalades and conserves. So let us agree that jams, marmalades and jellies are all roughly the same thing with the difference being the presence of fruit pulp. Jelly having none, jam having some pulp while marmalades contain large fruit chunks. Conserves we will talk about later. I have no empirical evidence to support this but I am going to ahead and say that Zimbabwe is a jam loving nation. Making jams is not as difficult as one would think and can really be done in your home with a pot. You may also need a strainer if you’re going for a jelly. There’s no limit to the fruits you can use pineapples, oranges, peaches, strawberries, melons, plums, grapes, gooseberries and raspberries all make great jams.
Pickles are made from both fruits and vegetables and are in almost all cases savoury. This is because the original items are preserved wither fermenting or immersion in vinegar, this is known as pickling. You will probably be familiar with pickled onions and cucumbers (commonly knows as pickles). But there is so much more you can do with pickling including mango atchaar, vegetable (cabbage) atchaar, radishes, beetroot and mushrooms. These are all available locally and in most cases abundantly.
Purees are basically what they sound like, you take an item into a food processor, blender or other implements that produce a smooth paste from your food items. I guess we are all familiar with tomato puree but there are so many more purees out there that we may not be familiar with. Hummus (chickpeas), sweet potato, banana, butternut, sauerkraut (cabbage)and a whole lot more. These are popular for baby food and in healthy food circles among other things. Many of these purees do not involve any complicated cooking methods to make them. Zimbabwe is a tomato loving and rich nation, consider making passata which is roughly pureed tomatoes but not reduced as would be in a traditional tomato puree.
Conserves are similar to jams in many ways. They include fruit that is cooked with sugar. The big difference is that conserves feature a whole lot more including nuts, spices and other additional ingredients. Conserves also differ from jams in that they may contain a mix of fruits as opposed to the single note nature of most jams. So with that definition you can take the fruits we said could be used in jams and mix and match or add ingredients to come up with some pretty awesome conserves. Conserves will feature chunks of fruit which makes them more desirable than jams and jellies.
Zimbabwe has a lot of fruits that can make for exciting preserve products. There really is no reason we don’t have a mazhanje (wild loquat) or madhorofiya (prickly pear) jam in 2021.