|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Kamba: nzola Kikuyu: nguirubi Kipsigis: robuoniot-ab-tirita Luo: ongeny Maa: oloiropiji, olorok-kilele, oloirobi-elongera Samburu: ldelopiji
Description: Small spreading herb rarely more than 15 cm high arising from a small carrot-like tuber. Stems several, arising from the top of the tuber, weak, thin, often prostrate or ascending. LEAVES: Of two types. Young leaves recently developed from the tubers are long, ascending and usually with few side lobes. Older leaves from the branches are deeply lobed and often smaller. FLOWERS: Purplish pink (mauve) usually opening in the morning. FRUIT: A small round capsule. Seeds few, grey or light brown. Tubers single or divided, up to 8 cm long by 2 cm wide, surface cream in young tubers, brown in older ones.
Ecology: Grows from Ethiopia and northern Somalia south to Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. In Kenya, e.g. at Ndaragwa (Nyandarua), Kaputei plains, Ildalalekutuk (Kajiado), Ong'ata Rongai (northern Kajiado), Nyandarua, Machakos, Makueni and Narok. Commonest in open grassland with short-grass species, 1,000-2,400 m. Common in the mid-altitudes, 1,500-1,800 m in rather damp but well-aerated clayish sandy soils, especially black cotton in transition to loam and in soils of volcanic origin. Rainfall: 650-1,200 mm. Zones: III-V.
Uses: FOOD: The carrot-like tuber is peeled and eaten raw (+++) (Kamba, Kikuyu, Samburu, Maasai, Luhya, Kuria, Luo, Pokot, Kipsigis). Tubers have the texture and taste of a raw sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and are much liked by children. Cooking not tried yet.
OTHER: Good fodder.
Management: Propagated by seeds or tubers. The seeds are produced in small numbers and so bulking is necessary before one has enough for planting. Seeds may be planted the same way carrots are planted. Germination is within a few days. If conditions are favourable, good-sized tubers are seen within 2-3 months. Fruits containing seeds should be collected as soon as they turn brown and kept to dry ready for planting the following season. The shoot dries off leaving the tubers below the ground and it is in this form and from the seeds that the species is able to survive the dry season. Young leaves sprout soon after the start of the next rainy season.
Status: Occasional. Encroachment of its grassland habitat by expanding human population, coupled with overgrazing and the poor rate of production, are threatening this species.
Remarks: Two varieties are distinguished:
· var. oenotherae with a corolla over 2 cm long. Found in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, northern Somalia, south to South Africa and Namibia.
· var. angustifolia (Oliv.) Verdc, has smaller flowers, the corolla hardly exceeding 1.5 cm and with narrow leaves and lobes. It is found only in western and north-western Kenya and in Uganda.