INDIGINEOUS SPIDER PLANT (Cleome gynandra) (SAGA/SAGET)
Cleome gynandra, Gynandropsis gynandra
Order / Family:
Mgagani (Swahili), Thageti (Kikuyu), Tsisaka (Luhya), Alot-dek (Luo), Saget (Kalenjin), Chinsaga (Kisii), Mwianzo (Kamba), Jjobyu (Luganda), Yobyu (Lusoga)
African cabbage, African spider flower, African spider plant, Spider wisp, Cat’s whiskers
Pests & Diseases: aphids and beetles.
Spider plant (Cleome gynandra L) is an indigenous leafy vegetable, which is widely consumed by the majority of the rural and urban population in Kenya. About 90 % of the rural population in Kenya have small parcels of land and rely on indigenous leafy vegetables for relish. Spider plant is ranked second amongst the top four indigenous leafy vegetables consumed as relish which also include Amaranthus blitum (pigweed), Solanum scabrum (nightshade), and Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)
Benefits of spider plant
- It is a very nutritious vegetable; fresh spider plant is rich in proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals which are lacking in most leafy vegetables.
- It has medicinal benefits. It also contains phenol compounds which can be used to cure diseases such as cancer, asthma, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.
- The plant has insecticidal properties .
- It is also a source of edible oil and livestock feed.
- Its’ oil is an ingredient in the manufacture of detergents.
- It can be produced for sale and has the potential to generate income for rural communities.
- It requires minimal management.
- Beneficial to Pregnant and Lactating Women
The plant has been beneficial when used in some communities to speed up the process of childbirth and ease labor pains. After giving birth, the women eat the vegetables to regain strength and improve lactation. It also helps to replenish lost blood after childbirth because of its’ rich iron content.
General Information and Agronomic Aspects:
- Origin: Spider plant originated in Africa and Tropical Asia but now has a worldwide distribution. The plants are usually 2-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide.
- Flowers: The flowers are long and bear many small white or pink flowers. The elongate fruit resembles a pod, but is referred to as a capsule, containing many small, dark seeds.
- Cultivation: The plant is either cultivated or harvested from the wild.
- Maturity: It is a fast-growing plant that is ready for harvest in as few as three weeks.
Usage and benefits;
- The leaves are eaten as a cooked green vegetable, have a mildly bitter taste and contain 5% protein, 6% carbohydrates and are high in vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus and iron.
- Spider plant is used as a vegetable, and as such adds important nutrients to the diet in rural areas not only in Kenya, but in both East and Southern Africa.
- The leaves are usually cooked when fresh but may also be dried and stored for up to two years although this practice greatly reduces the crop’s nutritional value.
Climatic conditions, soil and water management
The crop grows well during the warm season under irrigation. Spider plant is sensitive to cold and does not grow well when temperatures drop below 15 degrees Celsius. It thrives on sandy loam soils and does not perform well on wet, marshy and heavy clay soils. It requires exposure to sunlight and does not do well in the shade. Prolonged drought hastens flowering thus reducing yields (AVRDC).
Propagation and planting
- Propagation is done by seed. Seeds are sown directly in a well prepared seedbed. Transplanting is proved unsuccessful.
- It requires a well-prepared seedbed without weeds and dug to a depth of about 15 cm followed by a light harrowing.
- After digging the soil is harrowed to a fine tilth.
- Organic manure is applied and worked into the soil.
- The seedbed is then leveled before planting.
- Plants can be grown on flat beds or on traditional raised beds which are normally one meter wide. There are usually narrow pathways between the beds to facilitate weeding and harvesting.
- These pathways also act as drainage channels during the very wet season as plants do not withstand waterlogging.
- Shallow planting at one cm depth and with 30 cm between rows or broadcasting followed by raking on prepared seedbeds is recommended. Some farmers mix the seeds with sand when broadcasting them. About four gms of seed per m2 or 40 kg per ha are required.
- Emergence (sprouting) is normally from 6 to 8 days after sowing.
- Thinning is done three weeks after emergence (sprouting) to leave 10 to 15 cm between plants.
Plants do not have dense foliage, and as such are unable to compete with weeds. Seedbeds should be kept weed-free at all times, but especially during the first six weeks. Shallow cultivation or hand-pulling of weeds should be practiced. Spider plants respond well to decomposed manure. Flowering is delayed when adequate manure is available, allowing more and larger leaves to be harvested.
Also read: how to grow managu
The first harvests consist of thinned plants which are uprooted and taken to the market with roots attached.
Where possible, roots should be placed in water overnight to absorb moisture. In case of a mixed cultivation with amaranths or nightshades, spider plants are uprooted to make more space for the companion crop. In case of monocropping, which is more common, the tops are removed 10 cm from the ground. This encourages the development of side shoots. Harvesting is repeated several times, depending on the soil fertility and moisture conditions. The harvested shoots are kept in a bag without water during the night. The following morning the shoots are dipped in water for 30 minutes. Sprinkle water on heaps of produce sparingly. After several successive leaf harvests the plants are left to flower and produce seeds. Growers harvest the ripe capsules at the end of the rainy season to save seed for the next crop (AVRDC).
Leaves (often with flowers) are widely used as vegetables in Kenya, especially in western and coastal regions. Not a traditional vegetable of the Central Bantu. By themselves leaves are bitter. Leaves are boiled, butter added and eaten along with ugali made from finger millet flour. Usually cooked with other vegetables such as cowpeas, amaranth (Luhya, Pokot, Luo) and spider plant (Pokot). In western Kenya, milk is added and preferably left overnight in a pot. This reduces the bitterness. Leaves mixed with those of kandhira (Brassica carinata) are boiled, made into lumps, dried in the sun and stored in a clay pot (agulu) as a dry-season food (Luo). This may be eaten with apoth (Asystasia mysorensis) as mboga.
Root infusion used for chest pain (Makueni); vegetable is a cure for constipation (Luo). Water obtained after boiling leaves is used to treat diarrhea (Luo) (P Maundu et al., 1999).
Recipe: Spider plant with coconut milk
- 1 kg spider plant leaves
- 1 medium onion
- 1/4 litre water
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 litre coconut milk
- Harvest the young spider plant leaves including the stem tips then remove the leaf stalks.
- Wash the leaves with clean water and cut into small pieces.
- Place into a pot containing 1/4 litre of water
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt then vegetables and boil over a medium fire for 10 minutes.
- Next add 1/4 litre of diluted coconut milk and boil for 10 minutes.
- When leaves are cooked, mash in pot and add oil (or cow fat).
- Using a separate sufuria pot fry onions till brown, add tomatoes then vegetables and 1/4 litre of thick coconut milk (or fresh cow’s milk), then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Aphids can be serious pests during dry weather. Aphids are a major pest, causing leaves to curl and become unattractive to customers.
Aphids feed by sucking plant sap. Small aphid populations may be relatively harmless, but heavily infested plants usually have wrinkled leaves, stunted growth and deformed pods. Plants, particularly young plants, may dry out and die under heavy aphid attack. Heavy attack on older plants may cause crop loss by decreasing flower and capsule production. Damage may also reduce seed viability.
- KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l
- EMERALD GOLD 700WDG 5g/20l
- PENTAGON 50EC 10ml/20l etc.
Other control methods
- Use of predators, e.g. lady beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps, etc., which will feed on aphids.
- Companion planting, for instance, garlic and chives repel aphids when planted near peas or lettuce.
- Crop rotation with non-host plants
- Proper weed control
- Maintenance of field hygiene/ sanitation
Although aphids are easily controlled using insecticides, it is advisable to alternate various chemicals within a crop season. This prevents resistance build up by the pest against either of the insecticides.
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