Healthy Living Ghana: growing, cooking, playing…
Growing…. maize (sweetcorn)
Maize likes to grow in a position with plenty of sun, so obviously grows really well in Ghana, as the photo shows.
Sowing and planting:
- Start the plants off in April. Normally plants are raised in a heated greenhouse or on a windowsill.
- Re-use an old plant pot, yoghurt pot, margarine tub, fruit punnet or plastic bottle cut in half, for a seed container. (Make sure there are a few drainage holes in the base of the container.)
- Fill the container with suitable seed compost.
- Use your finger to make two small holes in the compost and plant two seeds (per 7.5cm container). Cover the seeds with 1.5cm of compost and firm gently.
- Keep the compost moist.
- If you cover the pots with glass, polythene or a propagator lid, they may sprout a little faster but it is not essential. You could use the top half of a plastic bottle like a mini-greenhouse or cloche.
- Seedlings should appear after 7-21 days – remove the cover at this point if you have used one. If both seeds grow take out the weakest one and leave the strongest to grow on.
- In late May, ‘harden off’ your plants. This means you should stand them outside to get them used to the cooler weather and the outside world! Bring them in if there is a risk of frost
IMPORTANT: In early June plant them out in blocks about 45cm apart. This is very important as maize is wind-pollinated and this gives the plants the best chance of being pollinated.
Maintenance – looking after your maize/sweetcorn crop
- Keep the plants moist and weed free. You can ‘mulch’ the soil; this means covering the soil surface with a layer of material such as compost, manure or paper – as well as stopping weeds appearing, it also holds in moisture.
- When the plants flower, they will benefit from extra watering (you could use rainwater collected in a water butt for this).
WARNING: Sweetcorn is quite a thirsty plant. If you grow it at school, you may have problems if it is not watered regularly over the summer holidays.
- When the tassels (the male flowers) on the end of the cobs turn brown and then black, the cobs are ripe to eat.
- Pick them and cook them straight away
- As soon as a pod of sweetcorn is picked from the plant, the sugar in it starts to turn to starch. Growing your own means you can have it freshly picked, when it is at it sweetest and most nutritious.
What you will need:
- Pan with a lid
- 50g Popping corn (can be bought from health food shops and large supermarkets, or grow your own!)
- 30ml Sunflower oil
- Place the saucepan on the hob
- Pour the oil carefully into the saucepan
- Heat the oil by turning the hob on to a medium heat
- Once the oil is bubbling, carefully pour in the popping corn. You may wish to pour the corn in by tipping it out of a jug. Important – put the lid on the pan, as the corn will start to pop quite quickly!
- After 3 minutes the popcorn should be done- carefully lift the lid off the saucepan to check to see if all the corn is now popcorn (this may need a stir). You may need to ask for adult help.
- Put the popcorn onto a plate or in a bowl and enjoy.
Safety note: Popcorn can quite easily burn and stick to the bottom of the pan, so keep checking on it.
Additional note: Try to find a pan with a clear lid so that you can watch the corn popping! Butter (25g) or sugar (25g) can be added as flavouring, if you wish.
Playing ….. Da Ga
‘Da Ga’ can be translated as ‘boa-constrictor’ in one of the Ghanaian languages. This game can be more-simply described as ‘big snake’ or ‘house of the big snake’. For 12 or more players, takes about 20 minutes.
How to play:
- Make an area about 3 metres by 3 metres on the ground (use chalk or an already-defined area). This is the ‘house’ of the big snake.
- Choose one player to stand inside this area. Everyone else stands outside.
- Make another area 4 metres by 4 metres around the ‘snake’s house’ – this is where the players stand.
- The first player is the ‘snake’s head’ – they reach out to the other players and try to touch one of them.
- The person who is touched joins the ‘snake’ by holding their hands.
- The ‘snake’ chain then reaches out with one free hand and tries to touch another player. Only players on either end of the snake may touch other players.
- The players can move around outside the ‘house of the snake’ in their space, trying not to get caught.
- As each player is ‘touched’ by the big snake the snake grows.
- The last player to be caught wins that game and starts the next game as the snake’s head.