Most Nigerians know the Nigerian vegetable; ugwu (fluted pumpkin) and the fact that it’s a highly versatile plant but few of us know what it really does, its health benefits. Many also don’t know it’s common name to be ‘pumpkin’. When some people hear pumpkin, they’d probably think of the round orange-colored squash plant used for Halloween decorations.
The scientific name of Ugwu is Telfaira occidentalis, it’s a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and is indigenous to southern Nigeria.
One thing I love about vegetables is the fact that they can either be eaten raw or cooked. Other groups of food like cereals, pulses, tuber crops usually require cooking or other long processes before consumption.
Ugwu as a vegetable can be seasoned with condiments to make a soup, minimally boiled, and eaten plain or blended into a smoothie.
Fluted pumpkin has numerous benefits:
1. It is rich in protein and Iron thus, aids blood production and prevents and treats anaemia. It is highly recommended for pregnant women and lactating mothers. It is administered as blood tonic to the weak or ill.
2. Like any other vegetable, ugwu contains a healthy amount of vitamins.
3. Lowers cholesterol.
4. Boosts fertility: The plant seeds are an excellent source of nutrients for the prostate, contain libido boosting vitamins, essential sex drive minerals and high level of zinc necessary for optimal testosterone production.
5. The young leaves are used for the prevention and treatment of convulsion when sliced and mixed with salt and coconut water.
Other benefits include; possession of antibacterial effect, helpful for diabetic patients as it has sugar reducing effects and boosts the immune system.
How to Eat Pumpkin Leaves:
Pumpkin leaves can be eaten raw, as salad, prepared as vegetable soup or used to garnish. It is commonly used as the main vegetable in Egusi soup and I also use it to garnish egg while frying and garnish noodles.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, straight out of the pumpkin. They can also be fried on a skillet with a bit of olive oil.
Pumpkin seeds can also be roasted and or salted. They also make a great addition to salads, pesto’s, granola mix and of course make an excellent “eat anywhere” snack.
How To Prepare Fluted Pumpkin Blood Tonic:
Crush leaves with hand and squeeze out water, sieve with cheesecloth or strainer to remove leaf particles, add milk and drink.
How To Prepare Fluted Pumpkin Smoothie:
Blend leaves and milk together. You can also add ice cubes if you want it chilled. Blend all together until smooth. Serve and drink.
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