The African Nightshade, also called Managu or Sucha, is widely distributed throughout the tropics and can be found throughout East Africa. The plant is an erect, many-branched herb growing 0.5 to 1.0 m high. Managu bears thin, oval, slightly purplish leaves up to 15 cm in length, has numerous white flowers and usually purple to black, round berries about 0.75 cm in diameter containing many small, flattened, yellow seeds.
There are several species with black berries, but the most popular are those with orange berries belonging to Solanum villosum. This group of species is often erroneously referred to as Solanum nigrum, a poisonous plant from Europe that is not usually grown in Africa (AVRDC 2003).
Managu leaves are eaten as a cooked vegetable, often mixed with other vegetables and the fresh fruit is also consumed. Some Solanum varieties are preferred for their bitter taste while others are considered ‘sweet’, particularly after being boiled and the water discarded. The raw leaves contain 4% protein, 6% carbohydrates and are moderately high in vitamin C.
Solanum species that are found in Kenyan vegetable gardens include S. macrocarpon, S. scabrun and S. villosum.
Solanum plays an important role in traditional medicine in Africa and elsewhere, but the leaves are considered poisonous in some areas of the world so one should be careful about obtaining seeds for planting. Lets get to know how to grow managu…
Climatic conditions, soil and water management
Managu/African nightshades can grow on a wide range of soil types but do not tolerate drought (AVRDC 2003). African nightshades do well in organic plots.
Propagation and planting
Managus are propagated from seeds. Seeds are marketed by Simlaw Seeds in Nairobi under the name “Black Nightshade” in 25 gram packets. You can also visit local agrostores in your town for seeds from other companies.
- The soil in the nursery should be loosened and enriched with decomposed manure.
- Managu Seeds should be mixed with sand or ash for uniform sowing.
- Sow the mixture thinly, either by broadcasting or in rows, 15 – 20 cm apart and cover with a thin-fine layer of soil.
- After sowing, the bed should be mulched with tall grass or a similar material to retain moisture (Mulching is also important to prevent the seeds from splattering around when irrigating the bed especially during the rainy season). This mulch can be removed once the plants are 3 cm. Transplant when seedlings have 6 true leaves and are 10 – 15 cm tall. The spacing should be 20 cm in the row by 40 cm between the rows.
Nightshades require large amounts of nutrients, and therefore do well in soils that are rich in organic matter. They also grow well on land covered with ash from recently burned vegetation (AVRDC 2003). Apply organic manure where possible. Frequent irrigation is needed for good yields.
Managu is ready for harvest 4 weeks from transplanting. The stems are cut approximately 15 cm above the ground. This allows new side shoots to develop. Picking is done at weekly intervals.
If complete harvesting is practiced, spacing can be as close as 10 x 10 cm and plants are uprooted. This method is mainly used when there is less than 2 months before the main staple food crop will be planted. Roots of these crops can be kept in water to keep the plants fresh.
Picking should be done very early in the morning and the produce sold the same day. Alternatively, Managu can be harvested late in the afternoon and placed on plastic sheets or banana leaves. These should be tied in small bundles.
The flowers should be removed before the crop is taken to market. Water these bundles sparingly to retain freshness.
Preservation is done by sun-drying. The leaves may be dried and stored for up to one month though this practice greatly reduces the nutritive value and changes the texture.
via Infonet Biovision