Today, small scale farming is becoming more and more popular. A lot of Nigerians are willing to grow their own food in order to consume it or to sell it for profit. One of the most popular plants that are cultivated in Nigeria is the fluted pumpkin, popularly refers to as Ugu.
THE UGU PLANT
The plant is grown by many people in West African regions. However, it is mainly cultivated among the Igbos in Nigeria. It is predominantly cultivated in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
The Ugu leaves may be used as:
Ingredient for soup, soap making, and medicinal purposes. They are large and are high in protein and fat. It can be blended into powder and use for cooking or eat them whole.
Besides cooking, the seeds are used for soap making. The leaves and shoots, on the other hand, are high in antioxidants. They are also known for their antimicrobial and hepatoprotective properties. The leaves are used as the main ingredient for some Nigerian soup.
Some report also claims that the leave can be used in treating malaria, anaemia and sudden attack of convulsion. It has other health benefits too, like Liver-protection; Lactating properties, excellent for nursing mothers; Hypoglycemic effect; Boosts the immune system.
Growing and nurturing fluted pumpkin in a container
The Ugu pod, where the seeds lie. In a pod, you can get between 60 and 80 seeds depends on how big the pod.
BEFORE GROWING THE UGU
To grow the Ugu plant, you need to have a container ready for the planting of seed. this container could be plastic or keg that has been cut vertically. You can also use a sac if available and it has to be perforated in other to allow easy flow or passage of excess water and be filled with soil and the soil has to be rich and loamy. You will also need some organic fertilizer – it may contain droppings of a chicken.
How to grow the fluted pumpkin seed
If you bought fresh seeds,
Take the pumpkin seeds and separate them from flesh and strings. You have to remove all the juicy parts leave them to dry for five days before sowing. If you bought dried seeds, Dig a hole of 4-5cm into the soil and sowing the seed with the tip facing down. Cover the seed with a little sand; be sure the seed is well covered to avoid exposure to the sun. After 6 days, place a stick of 1m-2m heights close to the pumpkin seed. Train the plant to climb around the stick. You can also use a trellis. Seed germinate 5 to 7 days after planting.
You can start harvesting your ugwu leaves a month after planting. The plant can be harvested repeatedly for 8 months. This can be done at intervals of 15 days. The Ugwu plant doesn’t produce seeds until 6 months after planting.
ADARANIJO, Bose Elizabeth
Intern Student at MyAgricWorld Agribusiness Consulting Firm, Akure.