Nigerian Fluted Pumpkin; Health Benefits

By Vic Odarve

If Asian and western countries have their own exotic and nourishing green leafy vegetables, Nigeria has fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis), a vegetable whose leaves and seeds becomes a part of their daily food preparation. Not only known as essential ingredients for their specialty pepper soup, this dark green leafy vegetable has medicinal and commercial values.

Nigerian flutd pumpkin leaves are used in making pepper soup

Nigerian fluted pumpkin leaves are used in making pepper soup

Fluted pumpkin is a tropical climber leafy vegetables belong to a family of “cucurbitaceae”. In Nigeria, these plants are widely cultivated in the eastern part of the country by an Igbo tribe. These climbing vines are widely cultivated for its leaves. The fruit is big and sometimes weigh as much as 14 kilograms. It looks like a giant fruit from a cocoa tree… dark and chalky color with a thick outer covering. The seeds are red blood in color and can be boiled or roasted for eating. It contains protein, potassium, iron, and other nutritious substance.

Fruit of the Nigerian fluted pumpkin

Fruit of the Nigerian fluted pumpkin

Nigerians, particularly the Igbo tribe, used the leaves as the main ingredients in making pepper soup. Since yams are one of the most important staple foods of Nigeria, this pepper soup serves as a sauce during eating. It is as important as fish and meat by Western and Asian people.  The young shoots and tender stem of the plants are also nutritious and delicious to eat. Almost all restaurantsserve pepper soup as you order any foodstuff from the counter. And tasting

Fruits look like a giant cacao usually weighing 10 -14 kgs.

Fruits look like a giant cacao usually weighing 10 -14 kgs.

this native sauce enjoyed by the native population is an experience that should not be missed for an expatriate.

The plant has many medicinal values. Several studies from various Nigerian universities showed the fluted pumpkin leaves can be used to lower diabetes and heart disease risks, including hypertensions; contains lots of phytonutrients which are thought to reduce the risks of breast and stomach cancers, and useful therapy for hypercholesterolemia through reducing oxidative stress and cholesterol levels. Lately, the pumpkin extract is one of the ingredients in the herbal preparations in African Traditional medicine.

In addition to its medicinal values, it can be produced commercially. Its leaves are exported to western countries, particularly England. These leaves can now be found in some European markets for research, consumption, and ingredients in some food preparations. The fresh leaves can be stored for a month in the market and retain its freshness.

This Nigerian fluted pumpkin, a nutritious vegetable with plenty of health benefits, is not grown in Western and Asian countries. And perhaps someday, they can be cultivated in their backyards, as what Igbo tribes in Nigeria are doing.

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