Scientific name

Vatovaea pseudolablab1(Harms) J. B. Gillet

Vigna pseudolablab Harms, Vatovea biloba Chiov. (Synonym)

Family name
Papilionaceae (Fabaceae)      

Local name(s)
Kullayya (Konsogna)

General description
A deciduous climbing leguminous plant often found covering shrubs in dry country. The stems are greenish purple. The roots are long, some horizontal, swollen in some parts, juicy and fibrous. The leaves have three leaflets and the flowers are purple to blue and green in colour. The fruits are a softly hairy, slightly  curved pod with up to 6 seeds that are usually greyish black when dry. The plant has been semi-domesticated by Konso-farmers who keep them in their fields intercropped with other edible food plants.

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
Tubers are edible and seem to be similar to cassava. The tubers can either be consumed raw or boiled in water after having removed the skin. Tubers have a pleasant taste even when eaten raw. Also the seeds can be consumed either raw or cooked. Immature pods, flowers and leaves can be cooked and consumed like a vegetable. Out of the roots flour can be produced by peeling the tuber, chopping them up, dying and grinding them. This flour is then normally mixed with sorghum flour and used to prepare stiff porridge. It is normally stored and used in lean periods. Farmers grow and consume the plant in normal years but during food shortage periods more people rely on them for their daily diet intake.

V. pseudolablab is found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, and Somalia. The species commonly grows along dry watercourses in dry bushland in loose red soil or sandy clay in lowlands and midlands (450 - 1,400m).

Propagation method(s)
By seeds.

Sample location(s)
Jarso Kebele, Konso

Root fibres can be used to make ropes or for making hats and fly whisks. R R Schippers (2000) argues that "in the opinion of people who know these plants, the potential available in this species is eminently worthy of exploitation. To do so a start need to be made by collecting and evaluating germplasm. Preliminary selections could then be tested for their performance and promising material should be multiplied further; this should not be too difficult, assuming that it is basically a self-pollinated crop."
The species is found wild in the dry parts of Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Somali, Yemen and Oman. People commonly collect the species from the wild but it is barely cultivated. It is now becoming rare in the Arabian Peninsula and becoming scarcer in East Africa because it is a favourite of people and livestock alike. If no action is taken, the genetic pool of this valuable species is likely to shrink fast (Schippers, 2000: p. 99).

1 Parts of the following description have been taken from Maundu et al., 1999: p. 233; Schippers, 2000: p. 99.

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Kulaya plant.jpg (109421 bytes)
V. pseudolablab (Kullayya’) plant on farm field in Konso, January 2000

Kulaya Tuber.jpg (35404 bytes)
Edible V. pseudolablab (‘Kullayya’) tuber