|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: Gynandropsis gynandra (L.) Briq., Cleome pentaphylla (L.) Schrank
Chonyi: mwangani English: bastard mustard, spider herb, spider flower, cat's whiskers Giriama: mwangani Kamba: mwianzo, mukakai (Machakos) sake, mwaanzo, ithea-utuku (Kitui) Kambe: mwangani Keiyo: saka Kikuyu: thagiti, thageti Kipsigis: isakyat, isagek, isakiat Kisii: chinsaga Luhya (Bukusu): esaka (singular), chiisaka (plural) Luhya (Kisa): tsisaka Luhya (Kisa, Kabras, Tiriki): tsisaka Luhya (Marachi): lisaka Luhya (Tachoni): chiisaka (plural), yisaka (singular) Luhya (Samia): esaka (singular) Luo: dek (Homa Bay), akeyo, alot-dek, deg-akeyo (Siaya) Maa: lemba-e-nabo (Elang'ata wuas), olmuateni, oljani-lool-tatwa (Meto), naibor lukunya Marakwet: sachan, suroyo Meru: munyugunyugu Okiek: isakiat, isagek (plural) Pokot: suriyo, suriya, karelmet Rendille: bekeila-ki-dakhan, Sabaot: sakiantet Samburu: sabai, lasaitet Sanya: mwangani Somali: jeu-gurreh Swahili: mkabili, mwangani Teso: ecadoi Tugen: kisakiat Turkana: echaboi, akio
Description: An erect herb to 1.3 m high (usually 0.5-1.0 m). Stems hairy, rather oily. LEAVES: On long stalks, usually divided into 3, 5 and 7 leaflets, to 7 cm long. FLOWERS: White or pink borne on a long much-branched inflorescence. FRUIT: A long-stalked capsule splitting to release small rough, greyish black seeds.
Ecology: Widely distributed in most of Africa, tropical Asia and America and all over Kenya as a weed of cultivation and disturbed areas, 0-2,400 m. Common in abandoned homesteads, especially animal enclosures. Soils: Fertile soils with a lot of organic matter. Zones I-VI.
Uses: FOOD: Leaves (often with flowers) widely used as a vegetable in Kenya, especially in the western and coastal regions (+++), (Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Teso, Kipsigis, Nandi, Giriama). Not a traditional vegetable of the Central Bantu, however. By themselves leaves are bitter. Leaves are boiled, butter added and eaten along with ugali made from finger millet flour. This is served to important visitors such as in-laws as a sign of respect (Luo). Usually cooked with other vegetables such as cowpeas, amaranth (Luhya, Pokot, Luo) and Solanum nigrum (Pokot). In western Kenya, milk is added and preferably left overnight in a pot. This reduces the bitterness. Leaves mixed with those of kandhira (Brassica carinata) are boiled, made into lumps, dried in the sun and stored in a clay pot (agulu) as a dry-season food (Luo). This may be eaten with apoth (Asystasia mysorensis) as mboga. Among the Kisii, it is almost mandatory for women to use this before and after childbirth, circumcised boys must eat it and it is served to important visitors.
MEDICINAL: Root infusion used for chest pain (Makueni); vegetable a cure for constipation (Luo). Water obtained after boiling leaves is used to treat diarrhoea (Luo). Leaves are pounded with a little water and the extract drunk as a treatment for chira (a condition with symptoms like those of AIDS, but associated with a curse or punishment from the spirits). Patient also bathes with this.
COMMERCIAL: Vegetable sold in the major towns, especially in Coast, Nairobi, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Provinces.
Management: Grown from seeds. Planted either in lines or by broadcasting. Cultivated on a small scale by farmers, especially the elderly in western parts of Kenya. Outside Kenya commonly cultivated for seed oil.
Remarks: Because of the bitterness of the leaves, some people prefer not to use salt. The Mijikenda believe that use of salt may lead to the disappearance of the plant from cropland. The synonym Gynandropsis gynandra is the name used at the East African Herbarium. The related species Cleome monophylla L. (Somali: aiyo) is widespread in Africa and common as a weed in cultivation. C. allamanii Chiov. (Somali: liimo danyeer) and C. hirta (Clotzsch) Oliv. (Somali: garah lahgurare) are also used as a vegetable but to a lesser extent. Their leaves are smaller. Among the Luo, dek is often used as a general term for a leafy vegetable.