Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Cucurbitac. 2: 84, 115 (1922).
2n = 22
Mtunda nyoka (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Momordica rostrata occurs in southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The leaves and fruits of Momordica rostrata are collected from the wild, boiled and eaten as a vegetable in Kenya and Tanzania. Tender leaves are cooked alone or with other vegetables such as amaranth or peas. Coconut milk or pounded groundnuts may be added and the dish is served with stiff maize porridge or rice. The juicy pulp of the ripe fruit is sweet and edible, but has emetic and laxative properties. The leaves are used in the treatment of malaria. A powder is obtained from the roots by peeling, drying and crushing. It is used as a preservative of stored grain and to kill stem borers in cereal crops. The leaves and stems serve as fodder, in Kenya especially for donkeys.
The nutritional composition of the leaves is unknown, but probably comparable to that of Momordica charantia L. Cyanogenic glycosides have been isolated from Momordica rostrata shoots and saponins from unspecified plant parts.
Dioecious, perennial herb, trailing or climbing with simple tendrils; stem up to 7 m long, becoming woody with grey bark. Leaves alternate, pedately (5–)9(–12)-foliolate; stipules absent; petiole up to 2.5 cm long; central leaflet elliptical to almost circular, 1–4.5 cm × 1–3 cm, lateral leaflets smaller. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; male flowers in axillary, 1–14-flowered, umbel-like clusters with peduncle up to 10 cm long, sepals triangular, 2–4 mm long, petals oblong, 7–13 mm long, rounded, pale orange-yellow, stamens 3, free; female flowers solitary, subsessile, sepals triangular-lanceolate, 1.5–2 mm long, petals c. 8 mm long, ovary inferior, narrowly ovoid. Fruit an ovoid berry 3–7 cm × 1.5–3 cm, beaked, rounded or slightly 8-angled, bright red, with many seeds embedded in yellow pulp. Seeds broadly ovate, c. 14 mm long, testa sculptured.
Momordica comprises about 40 species, the majority of which are African.
Momordica rostrata occurs in dry woodland, wooded grassland and on river banks. It is found from sea-level up to 1650 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Momordica rostrata is common in at least part of its distribution area, e.g. in Tanzania, and no threats are envisaged.
Momordica rostrata is likely to remain a locally popular vegetable. It may come to play a role in breeding programmes of Momordica charantia.
• Jeffrey, C., 1995. Cucurbitaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 17–59.
• Maundu, P.M., Ngugi, G.W. & Kabuye, C.H.S., 1999. Traditional food plants of Kenya. Kenya Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (KENRIK), Nairobi, Kenya. 270 pp.
• Njoroge, G.N. & Newton, L.E., 2002. Ethnobotany and distribution of wild genetic resources of the family Cucurbitaceae in the central highlands of Kenya. Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter 132: 10–16.
• Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
• Jeffrey, C., 1967. Cucurbitaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 157 pp.
• Jeffrey, C., 1979. The economic potential of some Cucurbitaceae and Compositae of tropical Africa. In: Kunkel, G. (Editor). Taxonomic aspects of African economic botany. Proceedings of the 9th plenary meeting of AETFAT. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. pp. 35–38.
• Kameswaro Rao, C. & Wadhawan, S., 2002. Appendix 31. Encyclopaedic profile of Momordica charantia L. In: Kameswaro Rao, C. (Editor). Indian medicinal Plants. [Internet] http://www.indmedplants-kr.org/APPENDICES_1.HTM. Accessed Sept 2003.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Momordica rostrata A.Zimm. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.