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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
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View the documentKedrostis pseudogijef (Gilg) C. Jeffrey
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View the documentLablab purpureus (L.) Sweet
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Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standley

Cucurbitaceae

syn: L. vulgaris Ser., L. leucantha Rusby

Borana: buge Chonyi: vilonje, chirenje, vimumunye (edible), kiburu Embu: rungu, kinya (container) English: gourd, bottle gourd, calabash gourd, calabash Giriama: vipuru, kipuru, muzungu wa mboke Kamba: ungu, kikuu (container), yungu (fruit, edible) Kambe: chirenje, vimumunye (edible) Keiyo: silangwet, soteet (fruit) Kikuyu: mungu, rungu, kinya (container) Kipsigis: soteet (fruit), monkwo (half) Kisii: ekerandi, egesanda (half), risosa (container) Luhya (Bukusu): lurabu, kumwendo (fruit), emuka (fruit-prepared) Luhya (Samia): sesebebe Luhya (Tachoni): emuka Luhya: rihondo, kimuga (gourd), kisanda (half) Luo: obudho (plant), budh-keno (fruit), poko (fruit-prepared), agwata (half) Maa: oltulet (plant), enkukuri (container) Marakwet: silangwa, sot (fruit) Meru: mungu, rungu, ungu, lungu, gikiri (container), pau, ncengerio (milk container, Mwimbi), kiuga (fruit, half-fruit) Nandi: silangwet, soteet (fruit) Pokot: silangwa Rendille: ororo, kuulal Sanya: buchuma, kumunye (edible) Somali: kula Swahili: kibuyu (fruit), mmunya, mmung'unya Tharaka: ikuru (plural), muungu Turkana: etyo

Description: A monoecious annual, long-trailing or climbing herb with divided tendrils. LEAVES: Simple, kidney-shaped. FLOWERS: Male solitary, borne on long stalks, large, white, axillary, with funnel-shaped tube, opening in the evening. Female with short tube. FRUIT: Young fruit softly hairy, variable in colour from green, speckled to cream or pale yellow. Mature fruit with a dry, usually brown, hard but brittle shell with a smooth or warty surface. Cultivated forms very variable in shape and size, 5-100 cm or more long. Shapes may vary from spindly to spherical with almost infinite intermediate shapes- constricted, crescent-shaped, cylindrical, etc. Seeds cream to brown, compressed, embedded in a white spongy pulp. The size and shape of gourds is both genetically and environmentally determined. Flowers produced first give rise to bigger gourds as the growth of the plant is vigorous.

Ecology: L. siceraria is believed to be of African origin. Now widely grown in Kenya for its fruits which are used as containers and often escaping to the wild, 0-2,800 m. Cultivated 0-2,500 m. Escapes common in the wetter areas, especially central highlands of Kenya and the Rift Valley west to Nyanza and Western Provinces. A traditional crop in many African cultures. Cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics of both the New and Old World. Riverine and lakeshore conditions, in grassland and bushland. Common in abandoned homesteads. Pound in a wide range of soil types but common in well-aerated, fertile soils. Rainfall: 400-1,500 mm. Needs well-distributed rain. Moisture crucial during fruit growth since drought leads to dropping of the immature fruit. Zones I-VI.

Uses: FOOD: Young, tender fruits of some small cultivars are eaten as a vegetable. The cooked fruit is soft, slightly sweet or almost without taste. These "sweet" types (Kikuyu: mungu, Kamba: ungu wa muyo, makii (Luo, Homa Bay), nyatao (Giriama: vimumunye) may be boiled, salted and eaten or boiled, mashed, fried and made into a stew. Mature fruits turn somewhat bitter and are not used as food. The seeds are edible and in some cultivars are high in protein and oil. Young shoots and leaves of some cultivars (Luo: maguti) are used as a leafy vegetable (Luo, Mijikenda). Several forms of these edible ones have been noted.


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Figure

Edible gourds have variable shapes and sizes: they may be small, elongate with a smooth surface or spherical or nearly so with numerous lumps on the shell (Luo: budh-nyatao). Most other gourd cultivars, especially those producing large fruit, are bitter even when young and cannot be eaten. Neither are the leaves eaten. These should not be confused with those of the pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.) which are widely cooked as a vegetable.

MEDICINAL: Roots and fruit are used as a purgative in some communities.

OTHER: Both edible and inedible cultivars are cultivated for a wide range of uses depending on their shape and size. The use of the gourd as a container is common in many African cultures, cultivators and pastoralists alike. When cut into two halves the various types, including the edible ones, find new uses-as open containers used for storage, ladling out food, fluids, seeds, etc., and as a cup, bowl or plate. Different cultivars have specific shapes with different end uses.

COMMERCIAL: Various forms of gourds are sold either as containers or in halves used as bowls or ladles. The very small ones are sold as household ornaments (Nairobi). The long snake gourds are grown in Murang'a and sold among the Maasai where they are still valued as containers for milking and bottles for a child's milk.

Season: Planted during the rainy season. Flowers in January-February in Makueni. Fruits in April-May in Makueni and Kajiado.

Management: Gourd plants grow easily from seed. Seedlings require well-aerated, fertile soils. Traditionally seeds for next season's planting may be in the form of stored gourds, or even seeds from broken gourds left in cropland. The plant is normally planted at the edge of cropland, next to a fence or on terraces to minimize on use of cropland. Among the Maasai the plants are not usually planted but grow spontaneously near cattle enclosures, on fences and in abandoned homesteads from where they are harvested. Occasionally there is deliberate propagation when seeds are broadcast at specific places or seedlings uprooted from the wild and planted in the homestead (Maasai, Bukusu). The plant climbs on hedges, becoming further strengthened. The shape of the container is affected by its position during growth. Among the Mbeere, Tharaka and Kamba, the gourds are placed upright on flat ground so that they form with a flat bottom-to be stable later when in use.

The fruit is harvested when the shell hardens and outer and inner layers begin to turn yellow. The container is prepared by soaking its contents (seeds and pulp) in water, dislodging the pulp with a stick, shaking it vigorously and emptying the contents.

Status: Species as a whole not threatened but genetic erosion taking place fast.

Remarks: Other important members of the genus are L. sphaerica (Sond.) Naud., an extensive climber, and L. abyssinica (Hook f.) C. Jeffrey, widespread from Kajiado and Embu to western Kenya. Common in bushland and evergreen forest.


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Figure