Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Article 48: The Fluted Pumpkin Vegetable "Ugu"

By S. Olanrewaju Disu

Rain or shine, the leaves of the "fluted pumpkin" plant provide a veritable vegetable source for a very large number of our teeming population. The leaves and the young shoots are picked continually as the plant grows. hence our markets are always selling the fluted pumpkin vegetable popularly called "ugu" in local parlance, all year round. During the rainy season, they are in great abundance and sell cheaply.

The "fluted pumpkin" plant derives the name from its fruit which when ripe may attain as much as 60cm in length by 25cm in diameter. The fruit's fibrous inner flesh contains 30-40seeds each about 2.5cm in diameter. Though the seeds are edible, they are often reserved for propagation. This particular vegetable is grown on stakes or trained up trees and it thrives best in plantation or closed forest country.

The leaves and young shoots of the "ugu" vegetable are frequently eaten as a pot herb and cooked as soups. Indeed, it is the most eaten vegetable among the Ibo speaking populace of Lagos State.Daily or weekly markets in Lagos area usually have reserved sections that exclusively sell "ugu" vegetables.

The vegetable is botanically known as "Telfairea occidentalis, Family Cucurbitaceae" It is medicinally important too. Medical doctors and nutritionists often recommend its consumption in cooked form to anemic patients. Many indigenes, especially those from the southern parts of Nigeria residing in Lagos State cook "ugu" vegetable along with "water leaf" vegetables and several condiments to form delicious dishes.

As mentioned earlier, our markets in Lagos area are often inundated with "ugu" vegetables during the rainy season so much that some tradersusually resort to street hawking to off load the excess loads of green farm fresh and leafy "ugu" vegetables


Photo (A) 'ugu" the fluted pumpkin vegetable on sale at the Ejigbo amin market

Photo B "Ugu" vegetable growing on stakes at a plantain in Lagos