|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Chonyi: chikosho, vombo Digo: mlenda, mwatsaka wa bara, bombo English: jute, bush okra, Jew's mallow Giriama: vombo, Kambe: chikosho, vombo Kisii: omotere Luhya (Bukusu): murere Luhya (Kabras): omurere Luhya (Kisa): omurele Luhya (Marachi): murere Luhya (Tiriki): omurere Luo: apoth, apoth-nyapololo Pokot: chow (Sigor) Sanya: kikosho Swahili: mlenda, mulenda, kala Tugen: ntereryan (Kibingor) Turkana: namale, lojeel, emarot, abungu
Description: An erect woody herb, usually 0.5 to 1.2m high but may reach a height of up to 2.5 m in cultivation. LEAVES: To 15 cm long, short stalked, ovate to elliptic, margin serrated. Leaf blade usually with basal protrusions. FLOWERS: Yellow. FRUIT: A short-stalked, cylindrical capsule that splits into 5 parts. Seeds greyish black, angled.
Ecology: Grows in northern Australia north to China and west through India and Pakistan to the Middle East and in most of Africa. Also naturalized in tropical America. Widespread in Kenya in seasonally flooded areas, flood plains, at edges of lakes, dams and marshes and in bushland, wooded grassland and open grassland, especially in low hot country, 0-1,500 m. Alluvial soils or sandy loam. Zones II-IV.
Uses: FOOD: Leaves widely used as a vegetable in Kenya and the rest of Africa (+++) (Luhya, Luo, Giriama, Digo, Swahili, Samburu). Normally cooked with other coarse vegetables as it is slippery, e.g. with Gynandropsis gynandra, Crotalaria brevidens and C. ochroleuca or cowpeas. When cooked with cowpeas, milk and butter, it is given to lactating mothers (Luo). Leaves are pounded in a mortar, cooked with meat and flavoured with lemon or lime juice (Swahili). It is mixed with Asystasia gangetica (tsalakakushe) or a mixture of cowpea, pumpkin, sweet potato and cocoyam leaves (Mijikenda).
MEDICINAL: Scrapings from the root are put into cavities in teeth to ease pain (Digo). Bark is a source of the common commercial jute fibre. In India and Bangladesh, this plant is cultivated extensively for its fibre.
COMMERCIAL: Vegetable sold in Nairobi and many market centres around the country, especially in Coast, Western and Nyanza Provinces.
Season: Rainy season and soon afterwards.
Management: Propagated by seeds. Sown in rows or broadcast. The vegetable may be harvested by breaking off small branches. This encourages the growth of new shoots.
Status: May be locally common but generally rare.
Remarks: This species is one of the ancient food crops of the Middle East. It is sown and used as a pot-herb by Jews (hence the name "Jew's mallow") and in stews in Egypt where it is known as melokhia. It is reportedly used in soups in Central America and as a pot-herb in South East Asia. Large quantities of this species are grown for the extraction of jute (used for making ropes and bags) in eastern India, Bangladesh and south China. A variable species with several cultivars.