|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Chonyi: mnavu-tsaka, mnavu, mnavu-jangaa Embu: managu English: black nightshade, wonderberry Giriama: mnavu, mnavu-jangaa (black fruits), mnavu-tsatsa, mnavu-mahomba Ilchamus: olmomoi, lmomoi, lmomo Kamba: kitulu Kambe: mnavu-tsaka, mnavu Keiyo: suchot, kisuchot Kikuyu: managu, inagu, nagu (fruit) Kipsigis: isoiyot Kisii: rinagu Luhya (Bukusu): namasaka, esufwa Luhya (Maragoli): litsusa Luhya (Tachoni): yisufwa, yimboka, namasaka, imboka Luhya (Tiriki): lisutsa Luo: osuga Maa: ormomoi Marakwet: ksoiyek, isoiyo, kisoyo Mbeere: managu, inagu (singular) Meru: managu Okiek: soyot Pokot: ksoya Rendille: gengalat Samburu: lmomoi, lekuruu Sanya: mnavu Swahili: mnavu, mnafu Taita: ndunda Tugen: kisuchot, kisuchon Turkana: esuja, abune, lokitoemenyan
Description: An erect herbaceous plant to 1 m or more. Stems ridged, soft, occasionally with soft, miniature prickles. LEAVES: With long petioles. Blade up to 15 cm long, usually 5-10 cm long, elliptic, entire or undulate. FLOWERS: Small, white, borne on a branched inflorescence. FRUITS: Green, turning orange, red or yellow at maturity (in S. villosum) or shiny purplish black at maturity (in other species). Seeds small, almost round, flattened, pale yellow.
Ecology: Most of Africa, tropics and subtropics of the world. Widely distributed in Kenya. Commonly found as a weed in cultivated fields, in weedy plant communities, under trees, along fences and shaded areas near buildings, 0-2,600 m. Rainfall: More than 500 mm. Soils vary. Zones I-VI.
Uses: FOOD: Leaves widely used as a vegetable in Kenya (+++). Normally cooked with amaranth (Pokot, Luo), meat or Cleome gynandra. Leaves are picked, boiled and may or may not be fried. As the vegetable is bitter, some prefer not to use salt. Among the Mijikenda the vegetable is mixed with less bitter vegetables such as amaranth (mchicha), cowpeas and Vernonia cinerea (kibudzi). Normally eaten with ugali. The ripe orange fruits are edible. The black fruits of the highland forms are bitter and may be poisonous. The green berries may contain poisonous solanum alkaloids and should not be eaten. The densely hairy form is hardly used as food.
MEDICINAL: Unripe fruits applied to aching teeth (Makueni) and squeezed on baby's gums to ease pain during teething (Kajiado, Kitui). Leaves used for stomach-ache (Machakos). Leaves and fruits pounded and the extract used for tonsillitis (Machakos). Roots boiled in milk and given to children as tonic (Maasai).
OTHER: Fodder for cattle and goats. Eaten and spread by birds.
COMMERCIAL: The vegetable is common in Nairobi markets and in many other market centres, especially in Coast, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Provinces. The demand in Nairobi is high.
CULTURE/BELIEFS: Some Mijikenda communities regard it as taboo to add salt, believing the plant will stop growing in cropland as a result.
Season: Leaves best during and just after the rains. Fruits normally available in June-August and in January-February.
Management: Propagated by seeds or cuttings. The Giriama propagate the coastal form by shoot cuttings. The seeds may be obtained by bursting the ripe fruits and drying them in the sun. The germination rate is normally poor.
Remarks: Polyploidy in the genus Solarium is common. What is referred to as Solanum nigrum in this book may well be a complex of species and their various forms which can be termed the Solanum nigrum complex. In recent years, following extensive research on the genus Solanum, and more specifically on the section to which it belongs, the trend has been to split the complex into a number of species easily distinguished by such features as the colour of the ripe fruit, fruit size, leaf shape and stem morphology.
In Kenya at least five species can be recognized. Each of these has a distinct distribution, habitat and altitude range.
Solanum nigrum L. This type has shiny black fruits and leaves with a somewhat wavy margin. In Kenya it is commonest in high-altitude areas above 2,000 m with a humid climate.
Solanum villosum Miller (English: red-fruited nightshade). The type has yellow to orange fruits up to 1 cm across. Seeds are usually visible through the fruit wall. It is commonest in the middle and low altitudes, including the coastal zone. It is the more common species in warm, sub-humid to dry areas in agro-climatic Zones III-VI. The ripe fruits are edible.
Solanum americanum Miller (English: huckleberry) is a small species with relatively smaller fruits, usually less than 9 mm across. Fruits are purple-black when ripe. The coastal type with dark green leaves and small purple-black fruits is most likely this species. It is often found in cropland, planted or growing naturally.
Solanum scabrum Miller. This is a type with relatively large fruits (up to 2 cm across) which turn shiny purple-black on ripening. It is occasionally grown by farmers in Western and Nyanza Provinces and in the highland part of central Rift Valley. Ripe fruits are edible.
A hairy form with regular notches on the leaf margin and black berries common around Nairobi is probably S. physalifolium. This form is not used for food.
While there is little doubt that some of these forms are indeed distinct species, the debate over the correct taxonomic classification of most of them is far from over with some authors preferring to lump most of the above species, and others not found in Kenya, under one species - Solanum nigrum.
In recent years, several other species in the genus Solanum have been seen in cultivation.
· Solanum aethiopicum L. (English: bitter tomato, mock plant (depending on the type)) is mainly cultivated in West Africa. It has shallowly lobed leaves and sub-globose or ellipsoid orange-red fruits to 6 cm long.
· Solanum macrocarpon L. (English: African eggplant, Swahili: ngogwe) found in Uganda, Tanzania and West Africa, has large shallowly lobed leaves and large cream-yellow to orange or purple fruits, to 5 cm across. Leaves and fruits are used as a vegetable at the coast and in Uganda and West Africa.
Also in this tomato family are several species in the genus Physalis.
· Physalis peruviana L. (English: Cape gooseberry, Kamba: ngavu, Maa: olnasi, Kikuyu: nathi, Luo: nyakonglo, nyatonglo, otonglo, Somali: tabaako). The Physalis spp. grown in Kenya are all native to tropical America. P. peruviana is cultivated and also naturalized in many parts of the world as well as Kenya. This has edible fruits which are very popular with children. Fruits are 1.5-2.5 cm across, yellow when ripe and enclosed in an inflated papery calyx. It is occasionally sold in Nairobi markets and in western Kenya.
· Physalis minima has smaller fruits. It is common in western parts of Kenya. Fruits are eaten, while the leaves are used as a vegetable (Luo, Luhya).