Msobo Jam

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Msobo, or African nightshade jam, is made from the small berries of the African nightshade plant (Solanum nigrum). The purple-black berries are about 5 mm in diameter, and make a bright purple syrupy jam, with a delicious full berry, slightly sweet flavor that is gentle on the palate and not tart or acidic. The jam is popular among the Dutch Settler and Zulu communities.

The berries are harvested in summer and are picked by hand. The jam is made by gently boiling the berries in water and sugar, with a little bit of lemon juice, until it achieves a thick syrup consistency. This jam is served with bread, cheeses, cakes, scones, yogurt and ice cream. It is an excellent local alternative to imported blueberry jams. It is also used as a condiment to rich meats like lamb or wildebeest shank.

The African nightshade plant that produces these berries grows wild in the Mpumalanga Highveld (where the jam is known as nastergal konfyt), and parts of Kwazulu Natal (where it is known as msoba jam by the Zulu people), the Highveld, and the Free State regions of South Africa. The jam is produced in a cottage industry, with limited direct sales. In commercial maize farming areas, where land is under GMO maize production, the plants are being destroyed by herbicides used on the maize crops. Also, the process of making this jam is labor intensive, as the fruit is delicate and has to be handled carefully. It can only be made where the fruit is picked, by hand, as the fresh berries cannot be transported long distances because they are fragile and split easily.

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