|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Borana: baddan Digo: mwambangoma English: desert date Gabra: baddana Ilchamus: lowei, Iowa Kamba: mulului, kilului Kambe: mkonga Keiyo: ng'osonaik, ng'oswet, ng'osyet (fruit) Kipsigis: ng'oswet Luo: otho, othoo Maa: olokwai, ilokwa (fruits), olng'oswa, osaragi Malakote: mubadana Marakwet: tuyun, tuyunwo (plural) Mbeere: mububua Orma: baddan Pokot: tuyunwo Sabaot: chuuandet Samburu: lowvai, lowwai Somali: kullan (Tana River) Swahili: mjunju, mchunju Taita: kiwowa Teso: echomai Tharaka: mubuubua Tugen: ngonswo, ngoswa Turkana: eroronyit
Description: A much-branched spiny shrub or tree up to 10 m high. Crown rounded, dense (but still can be seen through, cf. B. glabra which has a more dense crown and long stout branchlets). BARK: Trunk grey, deeply fissured longitudinally. Branchlets green, with (or without) long straight green spines (up to 10 cm). LEAVES: With a conspicuous petiole to 2 cm long, two leaflets, usually small, greyish green, normally shed in severe drought. FLOWERS: Small, greenish yellow, in leaf axils. FRUITS: Ellipsoid, up to 4 cm long, green. Ripe fruit brown or pale brown with a brittle coat enclosing a brown or brown green sticky pulp. Seed a hard stone.
Ecology: An important tree found from West and North Africa south to Zimbabwe and Angola from arid and semi-arid regions to sub-humid savannah. Found in many parts of Kenya, e.g. in Lambwe valley and Kaputei plains, but rare in the coastal zone. Pound at 250-2,000 m in bushland and wooded grassland. A common tree in open grassland with black-cotton soil. Soils: Mainly red and black-cotton clay. Zones IV-VI.
Uses: FOOD: Ripe fruit is edible (++). The brown fruit shell, which is readily detached from the pulp, is removed. The brown pulp is sucked and the seed discarded. It has a sweet taste, rather bitter nearer the seed. Young leaves and tender shoots are used as a vegetable (Pokot, Turkana, Tugen, Marakwet, Keiyo, Ilchamus). The vegetable is boiled (water may be changed), pounded then fried or mixed with fat (Pokot, Marakwet). Seeds (with shell) or cotyledons (shell removed) are boiled for 2-3 hours and the bean-like cotyledons eaten (Pokot, Tugen, Marakwet). Gum is edible (Maasai). Elsewhere the seeds are a source of oil.
MEDICINAL: Decoction of roots is used for the treatment of malaria (Pokot). Roots boiled in soup used for oedema (sir) and stomach pains (Pokot). Roots are used as an emetic (Pokot). Bark infusion used to treat heartburn (Machakos).
OTHER: Fuelwood, charcoal (+++). Wood hard, durable, worked easily and made into yokes, wooden spoons, pestles, mortars, handles, stools, combs. Resin from stems used to stick feathers on to arrow shafts (Pokot, Turkana) and spear heads on to shafts (Pokot, Maasai, Turkana, Kipsigis), and repair cracks in tool handles, arrows, etc. (Turkana, Pokot). Branches used for fencing. Bark used as fish poison. Animal fodder (++). Elsewhere fruits are used as poison to kill some stages of the bilharzia fluke in water. Even a few are effective. Activity has been reported in other Balanites species, and B. maughamii of southern Africa, with forked spines, is reportedly even more potent.
CULTURAL/BELIEFS: Fire made using this tree used to warm beer gourds for elders (Mbeere).
Season: Fresh new leaves in July-August (West Pokot). Fruits in March-April (Machakos, Kitui, Kajiado).
Management: Propagated by planting seed directly or by raising seedlings in a nursery.
Remarks: The name olng'oswa (Maa) is mainly used for B. glabra Mildbr. & Schlecht., an evergreen, much-branched dense bush, shrub or small tree 2-4 m high. Branches green, drooping. Spines thick, long, to 10 cm or more. LEAVES: Usually without a conspicuous petiole and usually with two almost round fleshy looking leaflets. FLOWERS: Greenish yellow. FRUITS: Shortly ellipsoid, with light green longitudinal lines. The plant is common in Kajiado and Kaputei plains at 1,400-1,800 m on black soil. The commonest Balanites around Athi River. Ripe fruit pulp is sweet, juicy and eaten (Maasai) but is said to be mildly poisonous, causing a feverish feeling, stomach-ache and even diarrhoea (Maasai). B. wilsoniana Dawe & Sprague (Swahili: mtonga, Giriama: mkonga, Kamba: kivuw'a) is a large, extremely thorny tree (when young) up to 10 m tall. It is only found in the coastal area and in Kibwezi forest. Its leaves and fruits are larger than those of the other Kenyan Balanites species. Fruits are edible. The plant is often infested with caterpillars (maungu) which are collected for food by the Giriama.