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Nightshade, Peach and Money for Jam (Lesotho, Africa)

Peach blossoming in Lesotho

Along roadsides, and in wild parts of the countryside and vacant lots here in Lesotho, many potential food plants can be found. These have been collected and eaten by people long before the start of agriculture, such as black nightshade (Solanum nigrum). Peach trees are very common on the Lesotho landscape, found around homes and in the field. In many cases they grow wild from people eating the fruit and dropping the seed on the ground. There is an opportunity to add value to wild food plants and planted fruit trees such as black nightshade and peach by processing them into jam.

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

It is a small annual with large, dark green leaves, white flowers and attractive clusters of black fruit. It is a member of the family that includes the potato and tomato. As part of a cultivated ecology it can be very productive in fruit. This plant shouldn’t be mistaken for Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna), which, as the name suggests, is very deadly to people. Another edible Solanum found growing in the wild is Solanum retroflexum, having leaves which contain high vitamin A levels, protein, minerals and fibre.

Peach (Amygdalus persica)

A medium multi-branched deciduous fruit tree, originating from the Iran region. The peach tree has become an iconic feature of the Lesotho urban and countryside landscape, made obvious in the spring with a widespread display of pink blossoms. There is a deep respect and value placed on this wild fruit tree. It can be seen standing within ploughed fields. And the fruit provides a free addition to what is usually a very limited diet of pap/maize and morag/cabbage for the subsistence farmers — which is over 82% of the population.

Disease, birds and hail can greatly reduce the amount of available fruit. The diseases of the peach tree can be extensive and eradication is difficult for a number of reasons including cost and environmental effects of the chemical used. Damage from birds is partly because of the destruction of the bird’s natural environment. A feature of Lesotho agriculture is the lack of trees in the form of wood lots, windbreaks and wildlife habitation. Hailstorms, which occur during the spring and summer, are commonplace in Lesotho and can cause extensive damage to agricultural and horticultural crops and fruit. The provision of trees and other plants have the potential to provide wind, hail protection and fuel. The quality and quantity of peach fruit can be increased by a number of actions including regular pruning, pest and disease control/IPM Integrated Pest Control, reworking varieties, planting of wind/hail breaks, increasing soil organic matter content, planting support species and permaculture designs guilds.

There are opportunities to add value to peach and other fruits in the form of drying, fruit leathers and jams. This can be carried out on the village level with its available household kitchen technology, and can provide a number of benefits, including extension of the fruit availability, employment and income. The surplus can be exported to regional and urban regions. The inclusion of locally produced honey with the fruit can make a very tasty jam.


  1. Gorgeous photo, and imagine those mountain sides covered in food forests.
    And thanks for the botanical names on the Nightshade, I always thought deadly nightshade was a solanum, interesting to know it’s not.

  2. Hi Carolyn. Deadly nightshade I’ve read from a definitive source is not in Australia, thankfully. The plants that are confused for this species are Blackberry nightshade which are edible. Regards. Chris

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