Scientific name
Solanium nigrum1

Family name

Local name(s) 
Qaqata (Konsogna), A'ena (Wolayetgna), Awitt (Amargna), Black nightshade (English)

General description
The plant is an annual weed that grows up to 60cm tall, is branched and usually erected, growing wild in wastelands and crop fields. Alternate leaves are ovate deep green with an indented margin and acuminate at the tip. Flowers are white with yellow coloured centre. The berries are green at early stage and turn to orange or black when ripened (see pictures below).

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability 
Fruits and leaves are edible. The berries are collected and enjoyed by children in normal times while during food shortage periods all affected people would eat berries. In addition to the berries, women and children will collect the leaves that are cooked in salty water and consumed like any other vegetable. But the leaves taste bitter. Therefore, people stop consuming them when other foodstuff are becoming available and crops get ready. Farmers in Konso reported that the plant matures before maize gets ready and hence is used to fill the gap before the harvest.If solanium leaves are consumed regularly and several times a week, they may develop stomach-ache. The stomach-ache is caused by the toxic glycoalkaloids solanine and solanidine. The effects of solanine poisoning includes vomiting and dizziness, mental confusion and loss of speech and can even result in blindness (Schippers, 2000: p. 186).

Nutritional value
R. R. Schippers (2000) reports that the nutritive value of nightshades depends on many factors, including crop species , whether it was grown during the rainy or the dry season, soil fertility etc. The age of the crop is also important and leaves collected during the vegetative stage have a higher protein content than those harvested from flowering onwards. The leaves contain an appreciable amount of methionine. About 60% of the vitamins and many other micro-nutrients can be lost during the cooking process, especially when the water is being replaced to reduce the bitterness. The fresh fruits of S. nigrum have a high protein content and are rich in vitamin A.

Mostly grows in cultivated fields. Found in the North-East, the Central Highlands, in the Arsi and Bale Highlands and in the Southern Rift Valley between 1,600 - 2,400m.

Propagation method(s)
Propagates by seeds.

Sample location (s)
Jarso Kebele, Konso

The berries are slightly toxic.

1 Parts of the following description have been taken from Stroud A, Parker C, 1989: p. 222/223; and Schippers R R, 2000: p. 176-192

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Qaqata.jpg (78178 bytes)
S. nigrum bush with ripe (yellow) & unripe (green) fruits near Segen River, Konso, January 2000
Solanium nigrum detail 1.jpg (48903 bytes)
nigrum bush with green unripe fruitsSolanium nigrum detail 2.jpg (45634 bytes)
Ripe fruits  with flowers (both Photos from Stroud & Parker, 1989: p. 223)