Most people would associate pumpkin leaves with fall and decorations. But not in West Africa, they are used in making stews, soups, and even smoothies and to tell you the truth, are quite appetizing.
In countries like Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone they are referred to as pumpkin fluted leaves or Ugu leaves , not quite the same as the pumpkin leaves you would get , here, in the U.S.
According to vanguardngr.com, Ugu leaves are also recognized for being rich in iron and vitamin C, needed for the production of blood and maintaining a good health. The thing that struck me the most is the fact that it helps promotes a healthier skin and in turn slows down the aging of the skin.
Now , name one person who doesn’t like that!
Here is the article http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/02/how-pumpkin-leaves-prevent-premature-ageing-2/ if you want to know more.
But my friends, I don’t eat Ugu leaves because they are healthy or because they are going to slow down my aging process. Noooooo….
It is all about the taste.
- They are sensational!!!!
- Do not require a lot of prep work like bitter leaves
- And the whole family loves it.
Whenever, they are available, I use them in place of bitter-leaves. Summer time is the best time to get them because they are available in farmers market especially among Asian vendors. They are usually all gone before you know it- Fyi
People like to hoard them- Yes, am guilty … sometimes.
Last weekend it was all gone ,before I arrived at the market. Lucky me, I stumbled upon it in an Asian Supermarket.However, African markets do have them frozen.
There are so many ways of preparing Ugu or pumpkin leaves soup ( In Africa, most sauces are referred to as soup)however; pumpkin leaves needs to take center stage-I always start with some kind protein or fish (mostly smoked) and then proceed with sauté onions, garlic tomatoes and crayfish. Then throw in blended skin-less peanuts; hot pepper or whatever suits my taste buds and the leaves comes in last.
Substitutions- Peanuts for Egusi or omit completely
Pumpkin leaves for kale, spinach, and collard greens.
Serve with any starchy side order like plantains, yams
- ▪ 8 ounce (1 cup) Groundnuts/Peanuts (Skinless)
- ▪ ¾ - 1 pound assorted meat (Beef, smoked chicken, stock fish)
- ▪ 4 garlic cloves
- ▪ 2 tomatoes chopped
- ▪ 1 large Onion sliced
- ▪ ½ cup Crayfish (ground)
- ▪ 1 Tablespoon Maggi (Bouillon) optional
- ▪ 1 or more pound pumpkin leaves (Spinach) blanched
- ▪ Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pan season meat with salt, maggi and onions and boil until tender depending on the choice of meat. Meanwhile, boil stock- fish with salt and water; add it to the boiled meat. You should have about 3 cups of stock from the meat and stock- fish. Reserve the rest or freeze it.
- Boil peanuts for about 10 minutes in a saucepan. Let it cool
- Blend/pulse peanuts, ½ onions , and garlic a food processor or blender into fine consistency use water to facilitate the blending.
- Place oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add remaining onions, sweat – for about 2 minutes, followed by crayfish, tomatoes, beef and stock fish. Let it simmer for about 5 more minutes- add stock as needed
- Pour the peanut mixture into the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes stirring frequently to prevent burns- add stock as needed. Season with salt and Maggi. You might have to add more later
- Add the pumpkin leaves or spinach to the pot. Stir and
- Simmer for several minutes more. Adjust for seasonings and soup thickness
- Stir for a few minutes and serve hot with any of the sides mentioned above.
Slice pumpkin leaves.
Bring water to a boil add sliced leaves and leave for about 2-3 minutes , remove place in ice water , drain out the water when cool. Remove squeeze out water from the leaves and set aside