Cleome (Cleome gynandra) is a widespread herb that occurs in South Africa from Limpopo to Namibia. Cleome gynandra is a species of Cleome that is used as a green vegetable. It is known by many common names like Shona cabbage, African cabbage, spiderwisp, cat’s whiskers, chin saga, and stinkweed.
Cleome belongs to the Capparaceae family. This herbaceous, erect, and annual plant grows to a height of between 0,5m and 1,5m, depending on the environment. It is a branched plant, sometimes becoming woody with age.
Cleome is sensitive to cold and does not grow well when temperatures drop below 15ºC. It grows well when the temperature is above 27ºC. Because of its tropical origin, cleome is believed to be day-length – insensitive, but some cleome species are facultative long – day species (not restricted to a particular function).
Cleome prefers well – drained medium – textured soils and does not grow well in poorly drained or heavy clay soils. It also prefers sandy loam soils, rich in organic matter and responds well to well – decomposed manure. Flowering is delayed when adequate manure is available, allowing more larger leaves to develop.
Seeds are planted at a shallow depth to ensure emergence and a good field stand. Plant seeds in seed beds or plant directly in rows in the field. Mix seeds 1:10 with sand or dry soil before planting.
Water requirements vary with the crop’s growth stage, soil type, and weather conditions (hot or cold). Frequent irrigation will be required for sandy soils as these drain quickly. Clay soils, on the other hand, drain quite slowly and hold more water than sandy soils.
Leaves: Cleome is harvested in summer during the first rains and can be harvested until autumn. Leaf harvesting starts four to six weeks after seeding emergence and it may last four to five weeks.
Seeds: Seeds can be harvested when pods are fully ripe and yellow but before they open naturally to prevent shattering.
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