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In an evaluation trial of AVRDC traditional vegetable varieties, African nightshade proved to be a popular choice in Burkina Faso.

Amy, a woman involved in an evaluation trial of AVRDC traditional African vegetable varieties at the Center’s Best Practice Hub in Gampéla, Burkina Faso, wondered what African nightshade (Solanum spp.) plants would look like when they grew to full size, and was particularly curious about the taste and texture of this unfamiliar vegetable. She agreed to try growing African nightshade, but was uncertain about its yield potential. She thought she might experience economic losses while her friends cultivating other well-known crops such as amaranth would gain more.

Two months after planting African nightshade, Amy was the picture of confidence, teasing everyone at the hub as she watched her plots turn greener and greener every day. Amy expected that she would harvest the fruit from her lush, thriving plants; when she learned it was the leaves that are eaten, not the fruit, disappointment set in.

One taste, says Amy, and “you will know what African nightshade is all about!”

At the first harvest on 3 January 2015, she took large bundles of nightshade leaves home to share with friends. But none of her friends wanted to try cooking the leafy greens; they were unsure how to prepare the vegetable and feared a failure in the kitchen. Then she met a friend who looked into her basket and exclaimed with surprise: “Loudo! Where did you get it?” (loudo is the local name for African nightshade). Amy’s disappointment turned into joy and anticipation: Although African nightshade is not popular in Burkina Faso, particularly in the Gampéla area where global vegetable species like tomato and green beans are predominant, the strong interest of her friend indicated there could be a market for the crop.

Amy’s friend showed her how to cook the leaves into a tasty African nightshade sauce, and Amy returned the favor by giving her friend five large bunches of African nightshade. “My friend said: ‘Now, listen to me: when you cook it, don’t use too much or too little peanut, neither too much nor too little salt; don’t eat the sauce while it is hot, for, you will miss the full flavor. Serve it warm, not cool, and then find a hidden corner to avoid being disturbed. In any case, do not react to greetings from visitors: You will know what African nightshade is all about!’” Amy said. She told the story to her fellow farmers at the Best Practice Hub, making them laugh to tears. Now, when Amy harvests her African nightshade plot at the hub, women come from nearby villages to purchase the leaves and learn how to cook the special sauce.

Contributor: Regine Kamga, AVRDC Cameroon