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Corchorus olitorius, in the family Malvaceae, grows in different parts of the Rift Valley. In Western Kenya it grows naturally in the salt plains and wilderness and is used for food in times of famine. It is a tall plant, reaching a height of 2-4 meters, and has only a few side branches. The leaves are alternate, simple, lanceolate, and 5–15 centimeters long, with an acuminate tip and a finely serrated or lobed margin.

It is locally known as murere or murenda. The plants are harvested manually by uprooting and then spread on the ground to dry for about 3 days. Then the seeds are separated from the pods by shaking or beating them with sticks. The seeds are separated from dust by winnowing or use of sieves, and small stones are picked out. The seeds are then dried for an extra day to prepare them for storage. The seeds with good shape, medium size, and no damage are put aside to be planted the following season. The young leaves and fruits are used as a vegetable. They have a mucilaginous (somewhat "slimy") texture, similar to okra, when cooked. They are easily prepared by boiling them together with ash from bean leaves. The sauce is served with balls of cassava, which are otherwise rather dry. It is also cooked into a kind of chicken stew. Murere tastes similar to spinach. Among the Luhya people of western Kenya, murere is also eaten with starchy foods like rice, bananas, and ugali (stiff porridge prepared from corn or sorghum), which is the staple food of most communities in Kenya. The seeds are used as soup thickener and in flavoring the dried leaves, which are used for making herbal tea, and can be eaten on their own.

Murere is mainly grown for home consumption, though a few people sell their extra vegetable leaves when they have a surplus. Although highly nutritious and a potential source of income, murere is being abandoned in favor of high-yielding, commercial, exotic vegetable varieties. A lack of available seed has also led to murere becoming underutilized.

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Rift Valley


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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Luhya
Nominated by:Viaggio didattico Unisg Kenya 2017, James Karuga