Have You Considered Eating Your Weeds?


In most parts of the developed world, Pigweed, Spider plant, Lambs amongst others are regarded as weeds. But in Africa and other developing countries, these plants form part of the daily diets of many rural households. The oldest inhabitants of South Africa have harvested leaves from wild plants to supplement the meat from hunted animals. Over 100 different species of plants are cooked as a potherb/relish with corn meal. These species include indigenous species as well as indigenized, mostly weedy, species. These species became part of the African culture and heritage and were collectively known as morogo or imifino. The popularity of specific species is a function of many factors, including availability, ease of preparation, taste, consistency and appearance. Some popular genera are Amaranthus, Cleome, Solanum and Corchorus. Micronutrient malnutrition is widespread in South Africa with vitamin A and iron as the major concern for micronutrient deficiency. Morogo can contribute to alleviating these micronutrient deficiencies. It was found that for the species tested, that morogo are low in energy and that leaves of nightshade, pigweed and spider flower provided more than 50% of the RDA for vitamin A.

Share and Cite:

van Rensburg, W. , Cloete, M. , Gerrano, A. and Adebola, P. (2014) Have You Considered Eating Your Weeds?. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 5, 1110-1116. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2014.58123.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bromilow, C. (1995) Problem Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, 315 p.
[2] Jansen van Rensburg, W.S., van Awerbeke, W., Slabbert, R., Faber, M., van Jaarsveld, P., van Heerden, I., Wenhold, F. and Oelofse, A. (2007) African Leafy Vegetables in South Africa. Water SA, 33, 317-326.
[3] Wehmeyer, A.S. and Rose, E.F. (1983) Important Indigenous Plants Used in the Transkei as Food Supplements. Bothalia, 13, 613-615.
[4] Levy, H.F., Weintroub, D. and Fox, F.W. (1936) The Food Value of Some Common Edible Leaves. South African Medical Journal, 10, 669-707.
[5] van Wyk, B. and Gericke, N. (2000) People’s Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, 352 p.
[6] Vorster, H.J., Jansen van Rensburg, W.S., Van Zijl, J.J.B. and van den Heever, E. (2002) Germplasm Management of African Leafy Vegetables for the Nutritional and Food Security Needs of Vulnerable Groups in South Africa. Progress Report, ARC-VOPI, Pretoria.
[7] Faber, M., van Jaarsveld, P.J. and Laubscher, R. (2007) The Contribution of Dark-Green Leafy Vegetables to Total Micronutrient Intake of Two-to Five-Year-Old Children in a Rural Setting. Water SA, 33, 407-412.
[8] van Averbeke, W. and Juma, K.A. (2006) The Cultivation of Solanum retroflexum Dun. in Vhembe, Limpopo Province, South Africa. International Symposium on the Nutrition and Water Use of Indigenous Crops for Improved Livehoods, 19-20 September 2006, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, The Centre for Nutrition, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.
[9] Vorster, H.J., Jansen van Rensburg, W.S., Venter, S.L. and van Zijl, J.J.B. (2005) (Re)-Creating Awareness of Traditional Leafy Vegetables in Communities. Regional Workshop on African Leafy Vegetables for Improved Nutrition, 6-9 December 2005, IPGRI, Nairobi, 7.
[10] Rose, E.F. and Guillarmod, A.J. (1974) Plants Gathered as Foodstuffs by the Transkeian Peoples. Suid-Afrikaanse Mediese Tydskrif, 86, 1688-1690.
[11] Rubaihayo, E.B. (1997) Conservation and Use of Traditional Vegetables in Uganda. In: Guarino, L., Ed., Traditional African Vegetables, IPGRI, Rome, 104-116.
[12] Shackleton, S.E., Shackleton, C.M. and Cousins, B. (2000) Re-Valuing the Communal Lands of Southern Africa: A New Understanding of Rural Livelihoods. ODI Natural Resource Perspectives, 62, 1-4.
[13] Vorster, H.J. and Jansen van Rensburg, W.S. (2005) The Effect of Participation on All Participants in the Traditional Leafy Vegetable Project in Arthurstone (Bushbuck Ridge). In: Vorster, H.J., Jansen van Rensburg, W.S., Steyn, G.J. and Mashele, X.B., Eds., Particaption and Linkages for Improved Extension Delvery, Proceedings of the 39th Conference, Bloemfontein, 10-12 May 2005, 10-20.
[14] Shackleton, C.M., Shackleton, S.E., Netshiluvhi, T.R., Geach, B.S., Balance, A. and Fairbanks, D.F.K. (2002) Use Patterns and Value of Savannah Resources in Three Rural Villages. Economic Botany, 56, 130-146.
[15] Hart, T.G.B. and Vorster, H.J. (2006) Indigenous Knowledge on the South African Landscape—Potentials for Agricultural Development. Urban, Rural and Economic Development Programme, Occasional Paper No 1, HSRC Press, Cape Town, 52.
[16] Whitbread, M.W. (1986) Preliminary Studies on the Utilization and Adaptation of Indigenous and Introduced Vegetable and Grain Amaranths (Amarathus spp.) in the Natal and KwaZulu Midlands. M.Sc. (Agric) Dissertation, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
[17] Grabandt, K. (1985) Weeds of Crops and Garden in South Africa. Ciba-Geigy (Pty) Ltd., Johannesburg, 134 p.
[18] Fox, F.W., Norwood, M.E. and Young, O.X. (1982) Food from the Veld: Edible Wild Plants of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg, 399.
[19] Chweya, J.A. and Mnzava, N.A. (1997) Promoting the Conservation and Use of Underutilized and Neglected Crops. 11. Cat’s Whiskers. IPGRI, Rome, 53.
[20] Schippers, R.R. (2000) African Indigenous Vegetables. An Overview of the Cultivated Species. Natural Resources Institute/ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, Chatham, 214.
[21] van Wyk, B. and Gericke, N. (2000) People’s Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, 352.
[22] Manoko, M.L. and van der Weerden, G.M. (2004) Solanumamericanum Mill. In: Grubben, G.J.H., Denton, O.A., Eds., PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. PROTA, Wageningen, 477-480.
[23] Schippers, R.R. (2002) African Indigenous Vegetables, an Overview of the Cultivated Species. Natural Resources Institute, Chatham, 245.
[24] Latham, M.C. (1997) Human Nutrition in the Developing World. FAO, Rome, 508.
[25] van Jaarsveld, P.J., Faberand, M. and van Heerden, I. (2012) Selected Vitamin and Mineral Content of Eight African Leafy Vegetables and Their Potential Contribution to Individual Nutrient Requirements. In: Oelofse, A. and van Averbeke, Eds., Nutritional Value and Water Use of African Leafy Vegetables for Improved Livelihoods, Water Research Commission, Pretoria, 227-243.
[26] Vesamvuni, C., Steyn, N.P. and Potgieter, M.J. (2001) Nutritional Value of Wild, Leafy Plants Consumed by the Vhavenda. South African Journal of Science, 97, 51-54.
[27] Faber, M., van Jaarsveld, P.J. and Laubscher, R. (2007) The Contribution of Dark-Green Leafy Vegetables to Total Micronutrient Intake of Two- to Five-Year-Old Children in a Rural Setting. Water SA, 33, 407-412.
[28] Wolmarans, P., Danster, N., Dalton, A., Rossouw, K. and Schonfeldt, H. (2010) Condensed Food Composition Tables for South Africa. Medical Research Council, Parow Valley, Cape Town, 126.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.