Berries of black nightshade (Solanum nigrum L.). Known as ranti or lencak in Javanese, leunca in Sundanese.

I stumbled upon this vegetable on the local supermarket rack last year and decided to give it a try. I wasn’t sure how to cook it, so I just put it randomly into my stir-fry. This vegetable tasted like eggplant, except that it was crunchy and slightly bitter. But overall, it was delicious.

Keep in mind that I have eaten a lot of bitter vegetables and I actually like them. The bitterness of lencak may be too strong for the inexperienced, so be warned. The Solanine level in unripe lencak, which have been reported to cause death, might be another thing to consider.

The first kind lencak I ate, and the only one available here, is the unripe lencak. The green berries. I didn’t experience any toxicity symptoms, even when I ate them for the first time. Was I lucky?

Several websites also mentioned that green berries of lencak is poisonous, so you must be careful next time you visit West Java. They put a lot of unripe lencak in their karedok. That’s death on a plate.

Seriously, though, if you’re not sure about it, don’t eat. Our body reacts differently to certain kinds of food.

As for me, lencak has become my new favorite ingredient for stir fry. In fact, I had them for breakfast this morning. No special treatment. I just washed and seasoned them with mushroom stock powder and salt.

Some of the berries turned black if kept too long in the fridge. But I never waited them to blacken; the green ones taste better.

Image credit: Tribunnews