Ark of taste
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Bush tea is made from mukenea (Zanthoxylum chalybeum), a species also known as knobwood in English, and by many other names throughout Africa: pupwechulu or pupwe (Bamba), ntaleyedungu (Luganda), chipupa (Lunda), mlunguchulu (Nyanja), mukundanyoka (Shona) and mjafari (Swahili). It is a wild plant native to eastern and southern Africa. Its leaves, fruit, bark and roots are used to make a tea that used medicinally to calm stomachaches and cure coughs, cold, chest pain, asthma, sore throats, wounds, malaria, fever and headaches.   The plant grows as a shrub or tree up to 10 meters tall with a narrow crown and hanging branches. The bark is gray and spiny and the serrated leaves are quite aromatic. Flowers are small and yellow. The tree produces aromatic gray fruits 5 – 8 mm in width that split to expose a blue-black seed. Mukenea grows in different parts of dry Kenya in well drained or red clay soils from 0 – 1,800 meters above sea level. It has been used as food, tea, and medicine since at least the 16th century.   It is not commonly found in local markets in Kenya, but mainly harvested for home consumption. Sometimes, herbal medicines using mukenea are sold. However, because of its food and medicinal values, this native plant faces threats of overharvesting if the wild trees are not maintained. Attention to the growth cycle of mukenea and responsible harvesting methods must be considered to preserve this plant for future generations.

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Rift Valley

Other info


Spices, wild herbs and condiments

Tea and infusions

Indigenous community:Akamba