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Momordica rostrata A.Zimm.

Protologue
Cucurbitac. 2: 84, 115 (1922).
Family
Cucurbitaceae
Chromosome number
2n = 22
Vernacular names
Mtunda nyoka (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Momordica rostrata occurs in southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Uses
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.
Properties
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.
Botany
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.
Ecology
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.
Prospects
Momordica rostrata is likely to remain a locally popular vegetable. It may come to play a role in breeding programmes of Momordica charantia.
Major references
• 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.
Other references
• 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.
Author(s)
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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.