|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Borana: burate-harre English: teasel gourd Gabra: buratte Kamba: kikungi, kyambatwa Luo: nyabuth-muok Maa: orng'alayoi-loo-sirkon, eng'alayioi-naju Mbeere: gikungui, mukungui Pokot: alaskau, kuutitan (fruit), chesapulian, ariapongos Rendille: khonjote Samburu: ntujuu, dudhu Somali: hungureri, hungureri-damer Turkana: eome, ekaleruk
Description: A trailing or climbing plant. Stems with tendrils, angled and with prickly hairs. LEAVES: Ovate or shallowly 3-lobed, coarsely hairy, light green, up to 10 cm long. FLOWERS: Yellow. FRUITS: Oval with numerous protrusions, light green, turning yellow on ripening.
Ecology: North-eastern tropical Africa in bushland, grassland, cultivated land and in disturbed areas climbing on bushes and on hedges. Common at river banks on alluvial and sandy soils but also found in clay soils, 425-1,800 m. Zones IV-VII (riverine).
Uses: FOOD: Young leaves from young plants (Turkana) or young shoots of older plants are used as a vegetable (++) (Kamba, Turkana, Pokot). Leaves are occasionally used in mashed food (Makueni).
MEDICINAL: Roots and leaves crushed and put on cuts. Juice from fruits used to rub on swollen neck glands (Pokot). Fruit juice is made into a solution (Pokot, Somali) or boiled (Luo, Homa Bay) and taken as an emetic or purgative (Turkana). Solution is usually given as an antidote after poisoning. Milk is served immediately after vomiting (Pokot, Nginyang).
OTHER: Goat and camel fodder. Fruit liked by donkeys, pulp eaten by squirrels (Makueni), but said to be poisonous to man.
Season: Leaves available 2 weeks after the start of the rainy season and fruits 2 months later.
Management: Plant grows easily from seeds.
Remarks: The fruits of several Cucumis species are used as food. These include C. prophetarum L., a prostrate herb from a perennial rootstock, with rough, narrow-lobed leaves and yellow flowers. Fruit egg-sized, pale green with dark green lines and soft bristles, ripening to a yellow colour. (Turkana: ekolese, Samburu: ntuyu, Pokot: ariapongos, Maa: ilporbol lo ntare). Ecology: India west through the Middle East to Africa. Widely distributed in the drier parts of Kenya. Not recorded in Nyanza and western Kenya. Found in dry bushland and woodland. Processed fruits are used as food (Turkana). Fruits are goat and sheep fodder. Two subspecies are recognized: ssp. dissectus (Naud.) Jeffrey, found in north-eastern Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Uganda, Tanzania and most parts of Kenya; ssp. prophetarum found from Senegal east to India and the northern parts of Kenya. Ripe fruits are clear yellow.
Another member worth mentioning in this genus is Cucumis metuliferus Naud. (English: spiny cucumber, horned cucumber). This is a climbing herb with hairy stems and solitary unbranched tendrils. LEAVES: Heart-shaped, hairy with long petioles. FLOWERS: Male and female flowers are separate on the same plant. FRUITS: Up to 12 cm long by 6 cm wide. Dark green with striations of white dots and covered with scattered spiny processes to 1.2 cm long, with a horny tip. The fruit turns orange to bright red on ripening. It is found in Acacia bushland (in miombo woodland in southern Africa) and roadside bushes mainly in red alluvial or loamy soils at an altitude of 800-1,300 m. The species is found wild in northern Kenya. Collections have been made in Sigor (West Pokot) and Mandera. It is widely distributed in the rest of Africa but cultivated for commercial purposes in southern Africa. The mature unripe or ripe fruits are eaten raw. The horny part of the spiny processes is cut off and the fruit split to eat the seed-filled white to translucent pulp. Fruit may also be peeled. This fruit has the taste of a cucumber (Cucumis sativus). Its use as a food has not yet been reported in Kenya. The fruit is common in markets in southern Africa and is also exported to Europe and America. The leaves may also be used as a vegetable.
The ripe fruit has a striking orange-red colour and so the plant may also be grown as an ornamental. Fruits last long in cool weather.
Cucurbita ficifolia BouchEnglish: Fig-leafed gourd, malabar gourd, Kikuyu: kahurura, kanyuria) is another extensive creeper or climber. Cultivated in the central highlands, especially by the Kikuyu. Leaves used in the preparation of irio, a mixture of maize, pulses and often green bananas and/or Irish potatoes. It usually germinates spontaneously in cultivated land.
Also commonly grown for their fruit and leaves are the pumpkins (Borana: bododa, Kamba: ulenge, ilenge (fruit), Kikuyu: marenge, Kisii: risosa, Embu: irenge, marenge, Luhya (Bukusu): lisiebebe, liondo (fruit), Meru: marenge, malenge (Nyambene), Turkana: ekaideit) Cucurbita moschata Duch. ex Lam. and Cucurbita maxima Duch. Ex Lam. C. moschata has distinctly lobed (divided) leaves, while those of C. maxima only have a wavy margin. Both have yellow flowers. Leaves and young shoots are used as vegetables.