The Endorois Bogoria kisochon (solanum Americanum) is a dark green narrow-leaved African nightshade, spontaneously growing in Baringo County, a semi-arid area in the former Rift valley province. The Endorois community inhabits the lake Bogoria banks, a forested area rich in kisochon plants.
The consumption of this plant has a special cultural and nutritional significance to Endorois, one of the minority ethnic group in Kenya: they think it was God-given to the community, crucial for its food security. Indeed, during the lean period (between planting and harvesting of the grains such as sorghum and millet), the kisochon was ready for harvesting in the forest, acting as ‘food security crop’. Moreover, thanks to its good levels of iron, vitamins, calcium, beta-carotene, proteins and fibres, the plant helps to prevent from various illnesses and in general to improve the immune system. Kisochon was compulsory food for dowry, wedding ceremony and other special occasions.
Several varieties of nightshade are widespread in central and eastern Africa, differing by color and shape of fruits and berries, number of seeds and pedoclimatic conditions for growing. The Endorois Bogoria kisochon grows at a very low altitude areas and presents small round berries, green when unripe and shiny dark purple when ripe. Each berry contains around 50-80 seeds that are white when fresh and yellowish when dry. The flowers are white, with a yellow protruding.
These leafy herbs are harvested mainly by women and youngsters as they graze the livestock, at weekly intervals. They germinate during the onset of rainy season mainly in late March or early April (all through the long and short rains). It is highly available from July all the way to December, and less from January through April. Picking is done very early in the morning or late in the evening by hands, to ensure that they are consumed fresh with all the nutrients. The gatherers cut the head of the plant as it grows to inhibit apical growth and to increase lateral growth (this allows new side shoots to develop). The harvested nightshade is carried home in a lengu (a traditional bag made of goat skin).
Kisochon cannot be eaten raw (..traditionally, the fresh leaves are eaten raw when one has cold/flu), but it must be cooked before consumption. It is in particular used to prepare a special side dish for ugali (millet flour dish): the herbs are washed and cooked under medium heat for 20 minutes for the bitterness to go away till the water in the pot dries up. Then salt is added with goat milk, goat fat or cow milk cream (based on availability) and possibly cherry tomatoes. People use the whole black nightshade plant including young shoots, leaves, fruit, and root to make medicine.
Lake Bogoria area, Baringo County
Peris Chebet Kaptum
Carson Kiburo Kibett