Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Ann. Bot. 25: 609 (1911).
Claoxylon kirkii Müll.Arg. (1864), Erythrococca mitis Pax (1895).
Origin and geographic distribution
Erythrococca kirkii is found in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.
In Tanzania and occasionally in Kenya chopped leaves of Erythrococca kirkii are eaten cooked as a vegetable, alone or in a mixture with pounded groundnuts, coconut milk or other vegetables, and served with a staple food. Ripe fruits are eaten raw. The leaves are also used for fodder and the wood for firewood. Occasionally, the plant is cultivated as an ornamental.
The composition of Erythrococca kirkii leaves is not known. Fresh leaves of Erythrococca bongensis Pax (from Central and East Africa) contain per 100 g: water 68 g, protein 7.2 g, fat 2.7 g, carbohydrate 18.5 g, fibre 4.3 g, Ca 678 mg and P 107 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
Dioecious, much-branched, straggling or erect shrub up to 4.5 m tall, with rough bark. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules broadly triangular; petiole 0.5–2.5 cm long, purplish; blade ovate to elliptical, 5–15 cm × 2–8 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate, margin crenate, almost glabrous, green, purplish tinged when young. Inflorescence a subsessile glomerule 1–2 cm long, female ones fewer flowered than male ones. Flowers unisexual, regular, small, petals absent; male flowers with pedicel c. 1 cm long, 3 triangular, green-white calyx lobes c. 1 mm long, an annular disk and usually 8 stamens; female flowers with pedicel 3–4 mm long, calyx lobes smaller than in male, yellow, 3 scale-like disk glands and 3-lobed superior ovary crowned by 3 free styles. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule, breaking into 3 globular, 1-seeded parts 3–4 mm in diameter each. Seeds subglobose, 3 mm in diameter, with yellow, orange or red aril.
Erythrococca comprises about 50 species and is confined to Africa. The leaves of some other species are also occasionally used as a vegetable: Erythrococca africana (Baill.) Prain in Benin, Erythrococca atrovirens (Pax) Prain in DR Congo, Erythrococca chevalieri (Beille) Prain and Erythrococca welwitschiana (Müll.Arg.) Pax & K.Hoffm. in Congo, and Erythrococca menyharthii (Pax) Prain in southern Africa. They are not treated separately in PROTA.
Erythrococca kirkii grows in forest edges and coastal bushland or thicket, inland mostly along rivers and lakesides, up to 1250 m altitude.
In Tanzania the leaves are collected from the wild in February–June and sold fresh on local markets. They are not stored. Erythrococca kirkii is not cultivated or protected, but it can be propagated by seed.
Genetic resources and breeding
Erythrococca kirkii is widespread and locally common, and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Erythrococca kirkii is a wild vegetable in parts of East Africa which merits more attention because it has harvestable leaves for considerable periods of the year. Its nutritional value requires investigation.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Erythrococca kirkii (Müll.Arg.) Prain In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.