Cyprus bulbosus (Vahl)
Cyprus blysmoides C. B. Cl.; Cyprus spicatus Boeck (Synonyms)
Kuenti (Amargna), Gohosa, Gooso (Somali)
It is a slender erect perennial sedge to 30cm, emerging during the wet season and dying back in the dry season. The basal bulb is up to 8mm and covered by brown to blackish scales and with very slender stolons ending in new roots. The stems are 5 - 25cm long, triangular or compressed, with many crowded leaves at the base. The inflorescence of the flower is a single spike without bracts, of 3 - 6 spikelets 8 - 12mm long.
Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
The bulb or 'nut' and the stem base are edible. The species used to be an important famine food. They can only be collected after the harvest or when the crop in the field got stunted because the plant is only growing during the rainy season like farm crops. It grows like a weed in cropped fields. The stem base of the plant can be peeled and the soft fleshy part is edible. The bulbs can be used in the following ways: (1) they can be eaten raw after having removed the shell (the shell is removed by either rubbing the bulbs between the palms or between two hides to prevent burns on hands); (2) the bulbs can be roasted for five minutes, then the shell can be removed and it can be eaten as a variety of the much liked kollo that is usually produced from wheat; (3) the bulbs are roasted, the shell removed, then crushed into flour and mixed with water to produce a type of injera; (4) the flour can also be used to bake a flat bread, locally known as quecha and it can be mixed with other type of flour, i.e. teff, sorghum etc.; (5) a porridge, known as Abyssinian Porridge or gaat, can be mixed. The preparation and cooking time varies depending on the type of food that will be produced. To produce injera it takes half a day, for quecha and for gaat 30 minutes. Kuenti is collected by women and children but eaten by everybody if there is a food shortage. In some areas people compete with monkeys and baboons for the bulb collection in times of food shortage.
The species are found Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and northern Tanzania. It grows in seasonally wet habitats on sandy to heavy clay soils in stony areas. Found in woodland, wooded grassland and as weed in cultivated fields, 300 - 2,400m.
Propagates by seeds
Sample location (s)
Dibla Seat Kebele, Ganta Afesum Woreda (Eastern Tigray)
Traditional insults go with the name of this plant; 'ary kuenti' and 'kuenti lacani', translated as 'kuenti eaters', which means being as poor as having to eat 'kuenti' instead of any other farmed crop such as barley or teff. The following other sedge species have edible stem bases and nuts: C. bulbosus Vahl var. melanolepsis Kueckenthal, C. rotundus L., C. giolii Chiov..
Drawings available in Maundu et al., 1999: p. 110
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