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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
close this folderSpecies accounts
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcacia drepanolobium Sjöstedt
View the documentAcacia hockii De Wild.
View the documentAcacia nilotica (L.) Del.
View the documentAcacia senegal (L.) Willd.
View the documentAcacia seyal Del.
View the documentAcacia tortilis (Forssk.) Hayne
View the documentAcokanthera schimperi (A. DC.) Schweinf.
View the documentAdansonia digitata L.
View the documentAerva lanata (L.) Schultes
View the documentAlbizia amara (Roxb.) Boivin
View the documentAmaranthus blitum L.*
View the documentAmaranthus dubius Mart. ex Thell.*
View the documentAmaranthus graecizans L.
View the documentAmaranthus hybridus L.*
View the documentAmaranthus sparganiocephalus Thell.
View the documentAmaranthus spinosus L.*
View the documentAnnona senegalensis Pers. ssp. senegalensis
View the documentAntidesma venosum Tul.
View the documentAsystasia gangetica (L.) T. Anders.
View the documentAsystasia mysorensis (Roth) T. Anders.
View the documentAzanza garckeana (F. Hoffm.) Exell & Hillcoat
View the documentBalanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del.
View the documentBalanites pedicellaris Mildbr. & Schlecht.
View the documentBalanites rotundifolia (Van Tiegh.) Blatter
View the documentBasella alba L.
View the documentBerchemia discolor (Klotzsch) Hemsley
View the documentBorassus aethiopum Mart.
View the documentBoscia coriacea Pax
View the documentBoswellia neglecta S. Moore
View the documentBrassica carinata A. Br.
View the documentBridelia taitensis Vatke & Pax
View the documentCajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.
View the documentCanthium glaucum Hiern
View the documentCanthium lactescens Hiern
View the documentCarissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl
View the documentCatha edulis Forssk.
View the documentCitrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Mansf.
View the documentCleome gynandra L.
View the documentCoccinia grandis (L.) Voigt
View the documentCoffea arabica L.
View the documentCommelina africana L.
View the documentCommelina benghalensis L.
View the documentCommelina forskaolii Vahl
View the documentCommiphora africana (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentCommiphora rostrata Engl.
View the documentCommiphora schimperi (O. Berg) Engl.
View the documentCorchorus olitorius L.
View the documentCorchorus trilocularis L.
View the documentCordia monoica Roxb.
View the documentCordia sinensis Lam.
View the documentCrotalaria brevidens Benth.
View the documentCrotalaria ochroleuca G. Don
View the documentCucumis dipsaceus Spach
View the documentCyperus blysmoides C. B. Cl.
View the documentCyphia glandulifera A. Rich.
View the documentDactyloctenium aegyptium (L.) Willd.
View the documentDactyloctenium giganteum Fischer & Schweick.
View the documentDialium holtzii Harms
View the documentDialium orientale Bak. f.
View the documentDigera muricata (L.) Mart.
View the documentDioscorea bulbifera L.
View the documentDioscorea dumetorum (Kunth) Pax
View the documentDioscorea minutiflora Engl.
View the documentDiospyros mespiliformis A. DC.
View the documentDobera glabra (Forssk.) Poir.
View the documentDovyalis abyssinica (A. Rich.) Warb.
View the documentDovyalis macrocalyx (Oliver) Warb.
View the documentEleusine coracana Gaertn.
View the documentEragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter
View the documentEriosema shirense Bak. f.
View the documentErucastrum arabicum Fisch. & Meyer
View the documentEuclea divinorum Hiern
View the documentFicus sycomorus L.
View the documentFicus thonningii Bl.
View the documentFlacourtia indica (Burm. f.) Merr.
View the documentFlueggea virosa (Willd.) J. Voigt
View the documentGarcinia livingstonei T. Anderson
View the documentGrewia bicolor Juss.
View the documentGrewia tembensis Fres.
View the documentGrewia tenax (Forssk.) Fiori
View the documentGrewia villosa Willd.
View the documentHoslundia opposita Vahl
View the documentHydnora abyssinica Schweinf.
View the documentHyphaene compressa H. Wendl.
View the documentHyphaene coriacea Gaertner
View the documentIpomoea aquatica Forssk.
View the documentIpomoea lapathifolia Hall. f.
View the documentIpomoea longituba Hall. f.
View the documentIpomoea mombassana Vatke
View the documentIpomoea oenotherae (Vatke) Hall. f.
View the documentKedrostis pseudogijef (Gilg) C. Jeffrey
View the documentKigelia pinnata (Jacq.) DC.
View the documentLablab purpureus (L.) Sweet
View the documentLagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standley
View the documentLandolphia buchananii Stapf
View the documentLandolphia kirkii Dyer
View the documentLannea alata (Engl.) Engl.
View the documentLannea edulis (Sond.) Engl.
View the documentLannea rivae (Chiov.) Sacleux
View the documentLannea schimperi (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentLannea triphylla (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentLantana trifolia L.
View the documentLaunaea cornuta (Oliv. & Hiern) Jeffr.
View the documentLeptadenia hastata (Pers.) Decne.
View the documentLippia carviodora Meikle
View the documentLippia kituiensis Vatke
View the documentMaerua decumbens (Brongn.) De Wolf
View the documentManilkara mochisia (Baker) Dubard
View the documentManilkara sansibarensis (Engl.) Dubard
View the documentManilkara sulcata (Engl.) Dubard
View the documentMeyna tetraphylla (Hiern) Robyns
View the documentMimusops fruticosa Bojer
View the documentMimusops kummel A. DC.
View the documentMomordica rostrata A. Zimm.
View the documentMondia whitei (Hook. f.) Skeels
View the documentMoringa oleifera Lam.
View the documentMyrianthus holstii Engl.
View the documentNymphaea nouchali Burm. f. var. caerulea (Savigny) Verdc.
View the documentOxygonum sinuatum (Meisn.) Dammer
View the documentPachystigma schumannianum (Robyns) Bridson & Verdc.
View the documentPappea capensis Eckl. & Zeyh.
View the documentParinari curatellifolia Planch. ex Benth.
View the documentPennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.
View the documentPhoenix reclinata Jacq.
View the documentPiliostigma thonningii (Schum.) Milne-Redh.
View the documentPortulaca oleracea L.
View the documentRhus natalensis Krauss
View the documentRhus tenuinervis Engl.
View the documentRhus vulgaris Meikle
View the documentRubus apetalus Poir.
View the documentRubus pinnatus Willd.
View the documentRubus volkensii Engl.
View the documentRumex usambarensis (Damm.) Damm.
View the documentSaba comorensis (Bojer) Pichon
View the documentSalacia madagascariensis (Lam.) DC.
View the documentSalvadora persica L.
View the documentSclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst.
View the documentScutia myrtina (Burm. f.) Kurz
View the documentSesamum calycinum Welw.
View the documentSesamum orientale L.
View the documentSolanum nigrum L.
View the documentSorghum bicolor (L.) Moench
View the documentSorindeia madagascariensis DC.
View the documentStathmostelma propinquum (N. E. Br) Schltr.
View the documentStrychnos henningsii Gilg
View the documentStrychnos madagascariensis Poir.
View the documentStrychnos spinosa Lam.
View the documentSyzygium cordatum Krauss
View the documentSyzygium guineense (Willd.) DC.
View the documentTamarindus indica L.
View the documentThylachium thomasii Gilg
View the documentTylosema fassoglense (Schweinf.) Torre and Hillc.
View the documentUrtica massaica Mildbr.
View the documentUvaria acuminata Oliv.
View the documentUvaria scheffleri Diels.
View the documentVangueria apiculata K. Schum.
View the documentVangueria infausta Burch. ssp. rotundata (Robyns) Verdc.
View the documentVangueria madagascariensis Gmel.
View the documentVangueria volkensii K. Schum. var. volkensii
View the documentVatovaea pseudolablab (Harms) J. B. Gillett
View the documentVernonia cinerea Less.
View the documentVigna friesiorum Harms var. angustifolia Verdc.
View the documentVigna membranacea A. Rich.
View the documentVigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.
View the documentVigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.
View the documentVitex doniana Sweet
View the documentVitex ferruginea Schum. & Thonn.
View the documentVitex mombassae Vatke
View the documentVitex payos (Lour.) Merr.
View the documentXimenia americana L
View the documentZanthoxylum chalybeum Engl. var. chalybeum
View the documentZiziphus abyssinica A. Rich.
View the documentZiziphus mauritiana Lam.
View the documentZiziphus mucronata Willd.
View the documentTermitomyces-mushrooms (edible fungi)

Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.

Gramineae (Poaceae)

syn: P. typhoides (Burm.) Stapf and Hubbard, P. americanum (L.) Leeke, P. echinurus Stapf & Hubbard, P. malacochaete Stapf & Hubbard, P. spicatum (L.) Koem

Embu: mwere English: bulrush millet, pearl millet, spiked millet Kamba: mwee Kambe: muwele Kikuyu: mwere Mbeere: mwere Meru: mwere Swahili: uwele, mawele (plural), mwele, miwele (plural) Tharaka: mwere Turkana: erau

Description: Tall grass, usually 1.5-2.5 m (some varieties up to 5 m) cultivated for its grain. Stems often branched and in many cases several arising from the rootstock. LEAVES: Slightly hairy, long and narrow. FLOWERS: Head cylindrical, up to 20 cm long (some cultivars up to 50 cm) greenish white at first (due to styles), turning dirty yellow-brown (due to anthers) then grey as grain matures. Large amounts of pollen produced. FRUITS: Grains 1.5-2.5 mm long, greenish grey, oval and may be conspicuous or, as in some varieties, hidden by long bristles.

Ecology: Cultivated in the drier parts of Kenya and especially the Tharaka region of Tharaka-Nithi District, Mbeere and also in Mwingi where it may be a staple food. Occasionally seen in parts of Coast Province, Makueni, Machakos, Embu, Mbeere and Kirinyaga Districts. Recently introduced in Turkana District. Also grown in the drier parts of Uganda and Tanzania and many other parts of Africa. A very drought-resistant crop of the low semi-arid regions, below 1,500 m. Does well on sandy soils but can also be grown on heavy clay soils. Can even produce a crop on infertile soils. Rainfall: 400-800 mm. Best suited to Zones IV and V.

Uses: FOOD: The grain is ground into flour which is used in the preparation of uji or ugali (Giriama, Duruma, Digo, Kamba, Embu, Tharaka). Among the Kamba the flour may be mixed with fermented milk and eaten on its own (kinaa) or fermented in a gourd to a form of porridge (isandi). More recently the grain is also prepared like rice to make dishes similar to pilau and the flour for a type of chapatti. Boiled like rice in Turkana but not popular.

MEDICINAL: Grain flour in water said to be excellent for diarrhoea.

OTHER: The stalks are used as mulch and are said to improve the soil for other crops like maize. They are not good fodder. Grain is used as bird food, hence the use of the name bird millet in some shops.

COMMERCIAL: Flour and grain sold in markets in central and coastal parts of Kenya when in season. Grain and flour sold in Nairobi supermarkets.

Management: May be sown by broadcasting or in lines then covered with a little soil. Traditionally several grains are dropped at intervals of about 30 cm. Crop lines can be at intervals of 0.5-0.7 m. Bulrush millet may be intercropped with maize but in different lines. Maize thinly scattered among the millet also gives good results.



Harvesting: Traditionally the heads are cut, spread to dry out, threshed and winnowed. The grain may store almost indefinitely when well kept. Before using it, it is further pounded to remove the husks. Among the Kamba, Mbeere and Tharaka, millet is stored in large (up to 2 m3) containers (kiinga, Kamba) made from twigs and grass stalks (such as this millet). The container is smeared all over with cow dung to keep insects away. In such a store the millet can last for more than ten years. The grain is normally used during hard times.

Remarks: The cultivation and consumption of bulrush millet in Kenya (and the rest of Africa) has declined over the years. This has been attributed mainly to the tedious preparation methods involved, and lack of labour, especially for keeping away birds from the crop now that most children attend school. Surveys have shown that many farmers would be willing to return to this crop only if the bird problem could be addressed. Some argue that if everybody in the growing areas could plant the crop they would share the burden and growing it would be less risky. As the millet needs little moisture and matures fast, one is almost assured of harvesting a crop even at times of severe drought. It would, therefore, be better than maize in the drier areas.

Another millet worth mentioning is Setaria italica (English: foxtail or Italian millet, Kikuyu, Mbeere, Meru, Embu: mukobi). A traditional grain of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru it is presumed to be native to East Asia where it has been grown for thousands of years. Now it is cultivated in both the Old and New Worlds. Culms may reach a height of 1.5 m. Due to its early-maturing nature, it is suitable for growing in the short rainy season.

Setaria italica