Ethnobotany and Mineral Contents of Indigenous Vegetables of Kisumu District in Kenya
Owino, Rusula Achieng
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Ethnobotanical study of herbage or leafy vegetables ofKisumu District in Nyanza Province of Western Kenya has been carried out to establish whether the indigenous species are still utilized. About 60 species have been identified and found to be commonly utilized, most of which are gathered from the wild. A few e.g Gynandropsis gynandra, Solanum nigrum, Amaranthus spp., Corchorus spp. and Crotalaria brevidens var. intermedia are cultivated in some places. These plants span across nineteen dicotyledonous and one monocotyledonous families. The family Leguminosae leads in the number of species utilized as vegetables, followed by Amaranthaceae, Acanthaceae, Compositae, Convolvulaceae, and Solanaceae (each provide four vegetable species, the ones mentioned during the survey) and Capparidaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Malvaceae, Pedaliaceae and Tiliaceae have each provided three species. Chenopodiaceae and Commelinaceae have two species each and Basellaceae, Onagraceae, Oxalidaceae, Polygonaceae, Portulacaceae and Zygophyllaceae have each provided one vegetable species. Out of these, ten commonly used species were analyzed for calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium contents. The survey has shown most rural folks to be dependent on these indigenous vegetables for most part of the year especially when conditions are dry and pests rampant. The plants are well adapted to the harsh environmental conditions (e.g poor soils, dry seasons) prevalent in many parts ofNyanza and are also resistant to pests and diseases which most exotics easily succumb to. During rainy seasons, these vegetables grow naturally and abundantly in farmlands, homesteads, along river banks, etc. At such times, they are cooked mixed with exotics like kale and spinach which are then available. Though some ofthem may not possess the qualities found in the regularly cultivated varieties, they are quite nutritious and when well prepared offer a very agreeable flavour. With a bit of breeding, they can therefore form an important readily available source of food for all and especially to many rural peoples (Kokwaro, 1990). There is a cultural acceptance of some, but a lot needs to be done to help in popularising them so as to curb ignorance and prejudice which leads to underutilization and their depreciation. Most of these vegetables have also been found to have medicinal values, especially in the treatment of gastro-intestinal problems. The popular cultivated species mentioned above are well utilised for this purpose but majority ofthe little known species are underutilized. Despite all these benefits some near relatives of the vegetables have been found to be poisonous therefore caution should be taken when collecting them from the wild by utilising only properly identified species for various purposes.