Spider Flower Leaves

Ark of taste
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Spider flower (Cleome gynandra) is also known as African cabbage. Its origins are unknown, but many believe it to be native to eastern Africa and naturalized in many other parts of the world, like the United States where, unlike Zimbabwe where it is eaten, it is considered a weed or grown for its long-lasting spider-shaped white to pink-purple flowers. In Zimbabwe, it harvested during the rainy season. It thrives in poor or sandy soils, and does not do well in water logged or heavy clay soils. It is a fast growing plant and in the right conditions can be harvested in as few as three weeks after planting, making it important for food security for rural populations.   Spider flower leaves are high in certain nutrients including antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, like calcium, magnesium, iron, beta-carotene and vitamin C. The leaves have anti-inflammatory properties and preliminary scientific studies have suggested that spider plant may be useful in the development of a treatment for arthritis. Spider plant is also known to have insecticidal properties as well. Intercropping of spider plants with cabbage has been known to reduce diamondback moth and thrip attacks, which could be a method to ensure greater food security. It is not usually formally cultivated, but among rural communities young leaves are collected, cooked, and eaten like spinach. A household can harvest an average of 100 kg per season.   Fresh leaves, stems, pods, and flowers are boiled in water or milk or fried in a pan with oil. The addition of milk reduces the natural bitterness of the leaves. Another common method to reduce bitterness is to boil the leaves, discard the water, and then add them to other ingredients in a stew or side dish with other vegetable and spices. In East Africa, fresh leaves are used in mashed foods. In several communities, boiled spider plant leaves are traditionally given to mothers before and after delivery of a child, and in other situations where blood has been lost. Although spider plant is can be dried and stored for up to two years, storage can greatly reduce its nutritional value. Dried leaves are sometimes ground and mixed into weaning foods for babies.   While spider flower leaves can be found in rural and urban markets in southern and Eastern Africa when in season, showing that it is a profitable crop, production is low in Zimbabwe. A lack of an excess crop means that there is not enough to dry and store for future use, and many do not enjoy eating the fresh plant due to the natural bitter flavor. If the habit of eating spider plant is lost among younger generations, the traditional recipes and knowledge of its medicinal benefits could be lost.

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Nominated by:Oliat Mavuramba