Ugu Vegetable (Telfairia occidentalis) Production Guide

Ugu Vegetable (Telfairia occidentalis)

Ugu Vegetable (Telfairia occidentalis) is a tropical vine grown in West Africa as a leaf vegetable and for its edible seeds. Common names for the plant include fluted gourd, fluted pumpkin, ugu (in the Igbo language), and ikong-ubong (in the Efik and Ibibio languages).

Telfairia occidentalis is a member of the family Cucurbitaceae and is indigenous to southern Nigeria. The fluted gourd grows in many nations of West Africa, but is mainly cultivated in Igboland and Calabarland and it is used primarily in soups and herbal medicines.

Although the fruit is inedible, the seeds produced by the gourd are high in protein and fat, and can, therefore, contribute to a well-balanced diet.

Telfairia occidentalis is widely traded in local markets and is also transported in bulk to large towns

The plant is a drought-tolerant, dioecious perennial producing vigorous herbaceous stems that can be 15 metres or more long, these scramble over the ground, clambering into other plants where they support themselves by means of tendrils. The plant is usually grown trellised.

Distribution
– West tropical Africa – Benin to Cameroon.

Habitat
– Lowland rainforest and riversides Rain-forest; secondary forest; forest edges; possibly often as a relic of former cultivation

Pollination: Bees and other insects

Temperature requirement : 21-30°c. Can tolerate low temperatures up to 5°c
Moisture requirement : 1900 – 2700mm

Soil requirement : adapt to wide range of soil condition

pH range : 4. 5 – 6. 0

Propagation
– Seed can be sown in situ or in containers. When grown in containers, sow 2 – 3 seeds in each container thinning to the strongest plant once they germinate.

Seed size affects the vigour, germination rates and establishment of the seedlings. Viability varies from 63% for small seeds weighing less than 11g, up to 89% for seeds weighing 22g.

Germination takes about 14 days in natural soil, but only 7 days in a sawdust medium. Vine length one week after emergence is on average 31cm for large seeds, whereas small size seeds grow into a corresponding vine length of 16cm Plant out container-grown plants after about 30 days.

Some seeds exhibit polyembryony, producing more than one seedling.

The seed is recalcitrant in nature. They often germinate whilst still in the fruit and have a short viability, thus seed storage is difficult.

The critical seed moisture content below which seeds cannot recover from desiccation is 40 – 60%

Plant spacing : 1m x 1m

Fertilization
(a) For High Leaf Yield:- The following fertilizer i~
recommended:-
Basal dress 60kg N/ha; 60kg P2o5/ha and 45kg K20iha.
Dress plants with 30kg N/ha after 3 months to boos1
vegetative growth. After 6 months, dress with 30kg N/ha.

(b) For Pod Production: -Apply 400kg/ha of compound fertilize!

  • NPK 15.15.15 after the first weeding.

Staking
Staking, apart from reducing the incidence of spots on the leave~
due to better exposure and ventilation around plants, has been shown to
give high leaf yields of leaves and enhances pod formation.
It is recommended that staking be done 6- 8 weeks after planting
by building overhead racks with forked sticks and bamboos or poles
The racks could be of any convenient height but not lower than I meter.

Established plants thrive in both shade and open field and are drought resistant, though yields are greatly reduced in times of drought

Fluted pumpkin grows fast in the warm, humid tropics, producing edible leaves in the rainy season and at the beginning of the dry season, for a period of 6 – 10 months

The plant can be managed as a short-term perennial when grown on well-drained soils, slightly shaded and well mulched. On soggy soils and in sunlit spots it can only be grown as an annual.
Female plants are usually grown for their edible young shoots since males do not produce many of these

The first harvest of these shoots occurs about 2 – 3 months after sowing the seed
Up to 15 harvests may be obtained during the following 120 – 160 days

Male plants start to flower about 3 months after planting, a month earlier than females plants

Hand pollination seems to be advantageous for fruit set as it resulted in 35% fruit set compared to 15% fruit set in open pollination

Female plants produce about 18 single flowers which set fruit, but only 1 – 4 develop into mature fruits.
Out of the female plants of a population, only 35% bear fruits. A large variation occurs between and within plants in the number of seeds per fruit, from 6 seeds per fruit up to 196, with an average of 62 seeds. The seeds are also unequal in size, varying in weight from 1 – 68g.
Fruits are ready about 5 – 6 months after sowing.

Read Also: Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

Yield
The fresh shoot yield can be as low as 500 – 1,000 kilos per hectare, but it can also reach 3 – 10 tonnes. In home gardens in Benin, one plant occupying 3 metres of fence produced 2 kilos of young leaves per metre in the rainy season and 500g in the dry season without irrigation

The seed yield can reach 1.9 tonnes per hectare, derived from 3,000 fruits
A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required

Identifying the female plants from either seeds or young seedlings has not been successful, but vine size 64 days after planting could be used as a sex indicator, because female plants are more vigorous than the male ones

Duration of the Ugu Vegetable crop

For economic yield, it is recommended that the crop should be
terminated after 2 years. Fluted pumpkin stands planted around the
compound and those planted in association with tree crops continue for
4 years or more provided pests and diseases do not damage tuberous
root system of the crop.

Inter-ropping
Fluted pumpkin is commonly grown mixed with yam, cassava, cocoyam, plantain, maize, and other vegetables or in pure stands. It can also be grown in association with houndary tree crops in which case it is
encouraged to trail on the trees.

Pests
A number of pests- grasshopper (Zonoce111s vruiagatus), sucking leaf beetles, destroy the leaves and fruit flies infest the fruit especially during the dry season.
Agrothion, Vetox 85, and other potent and safe insecticides offer control measures.

Diseases
Cercospora spot is a major fungal disease, which affects the leaves of the fluted pumpkin especially in the rainy season.
Dithane M-45, Benlate, and other fungicides are
recommended.
1 Mildews: -This is another common disease of the rainy season. The upper sides of leaves arc covered with what looks like white or brown powder, which can readily be rubbed off with the thumb. To control this, spray or treat with either lime-sulphur (I tablespoonful in 7 beer bottles of water; I beer bottle – 630 mls).

Ugu Vegetable (Telfairia occidentalis)
Ugu Vegetable (Telfairia occidentalis)

Plant products and uses
Cooked Seeds has a pleasant almond-like flavor. It can be boiled and eaten as a nut, or ground into a flour for use in soup. Immature seeds are cooked or roasted; they can also be fermented for several days and eaten as a slurry.

Mature seeds are not consumed directly because they have a high content of anti nutrients.
The raw flour shows better water and fat absorption properties than the oil, hence its useful application in baking products.

The seed contains up to 30% protein and a high content of a non-drying oil. The large seeds are up to 5cm in diameter and are contained in a fruit that can weight up to 50kg.

The seeds have a very high oil content and are used to make a cooking oil. The main constituents of the oil are oleic acid (37%), stearic and palmitic acid (both 21%), linoleic acid (15%). Variation between samples, however, is large.

Leaves and young shoots – cooked as a pottery. The leaves are used alone or together with okra (Abelmoschus caillei and Abelmoschus esculentus), dika nut (Irvingia gabonensis), or egusi seeds (Citrullus lanatus and other species). They can also be mixed with eru (Gnetum africanum) and Pterocarpus spy audio. The young shoots, up to 50cm long, are used in stews and as a side dish.

The fruit pulp, including the young seeds, is occasionally made into marmalade.

Medicinal
Pregnant women, and patients suffering from anaemia, use the leaf juice as a tonic to strengthen the blood.

Agroforestry Uses:
Fluted pumpkin is often grown as a crop in homesteads, where it is inter-cropped with other vegetables and food crops such as cassava, yams and maize, or is planted against fences.

Other Uses
The oil from the seeds is reported to be non-drying, and also to be used as drying oil for paints and varnishes.
The stems are macerated to produce fibres that are used as a sponge.

Health Benefits of pumpkin leaf (Ugwu Vegetable) to humans and animals
Few fact about the eating healthy green vegetables mostly ugu its fights against cancer, increases fertility, prevents infection, lower cholesterol, tackles convulsion, combats diabetes, and other related illnesses.
Pumpkin leaf, which is locally known as “Ugwu,”or ugu is one of those plants that secretly carry some unbelievable health benefits.

It is said to be secret because the health benefits of the plant are unknown to most people. And the few who deem themselves knowing, know only little about the plant.
Pumpkin leaves have a healthy amount of
Vitamin A,
Vitamin C,
Calcium,
Iron.
And aside from the vision benefits in Vitamin A that the leaves provide, there are also numerous skin benefits.

Additionally, the vitamin C that is contained in it helps to heal wounds and form scar tissue. It also helps to maintain healthy bones, skin, and teeth.
But those are not the only health benefits of this wonderful plant. For it also fights against cancer, increases fertility, prevents infection, lower cholesterol, tackles convulsion, combats diabetes, and also an anti-aging agent.

It is also important to note that pumpkin leaves contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, which includes:
Potassium,
Calcium,
Folic acid,
Iron,
Vitamin E,
Vitamin B6,
Vitamin A,
Vitamin C,
Magnesium,
Phosphorus,
Thiamine,
Niacin,
Dietary fibers,
Riboflavin,
Copper,
Manganese,
Proteins.

Related: 50 Business Ideas for Aspiring Entrepreneurs on Agriculture

Here are five unbelievable health benefits of pumpkin leaves:

  1. It fights against cancer
    Gradually becoming one of the major causes of death around the world, cancer is now a household name when it comes to sicknesses.
    And unlike before when it was rare to find someone suffering from cancer, it has become more like an airborne disease nowadays.
    Be that as it may, the presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in fluted pumpkin leaves help fight against the dreaded illness.
    In addition, the contained chlorophyll, phenolic compounds, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, and phytosterols which possess chemo-suppressive properties, makes it possible for the leaves to prevent cancer growth.
  2. It tackles convulsion
    Convulsion as a disorder can be explained as a sudden, violent, irregular movement of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles and associated especially with brain disorders such as epilepsy, the presence of certain toxins or other agents in the blood, or fever in children.
    It is not a thing that one should experience because it can be terrible. However, alternative medicine practitioners have used pumpkin leaves to prevent and treat this disorder for years.
    The young leaves are sliced and mixed with coconut water and salt and are stored in a bottle till whenever there’s a need for it.
  3. It increases fertility
    Studies have shown that pumpkin leaves can be very vital when it comes treating infertility issues. The antioxidants properties which include oleic acid, vitamin A, alkaloids, tannins and linoleic acid have been shown to help boost the functionality of the testicles for an increased sperm count.
  4. It helps to keep diabetes under control
    Known to help reduce the sugar level in the blood, the hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin leaves help keep diabetes under control.
    Studies have also shown that the aqueous leaf extract of pumpkin leaves acts as anti-diabetic properties which help to reduce and regulate the glucose level of diabetic patients.
    And this is linked to the presence of ethyl acetate and polysaccharides content in the leaves, which are anti-diabetic properties.
  5. It boosts the immune system
    The immune system comprises the organs and processes of the body that provide resistance to infection and toxins. And these organs include the thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.
    However, owing to the rich content of vitamins and minerals contained in it, pumpkin leaves have been shown to be a high booster of the immune system.
    Thus, maintaining an overall health in the process.
  6. Pumpkin leaves helps to solve liver and kidney problems Pumpkin leaf juice can help your liver and kidney. If you suffer from gall bladder or kidney stones problems, drink a bit of juice. One cup per day can improve your condition. You should drink half a cup in the morning and half a cup in the evening for ten days. Also, Ugu leaves have a great laxative effect. It will help your digestive system and cure constipation.
  7. Improves eyes health Ugu leaves juice is a perfect source of Vitamin A, which is important for eye health and prevents many diseases that come with age. It also prevents degeneration of some of the parts of the eye.
  8. Treats arteriosclerosis Do you want to get rid of the old build-up of arterial deposits? Well, this vegetable will help to clean out your arteries and reduce the risk of heart diseases. It contains a lot of anti-oxidants, which help to prevent arteriosclerosis.
  9. Relieves morning sickness If you suffer from morning sickness, when pregnant, try some pumpkin leaf juice! Ugwu juice is an effective way to reduce morning sickness. Most of pregnant women asked, admitted that half of cup of juice really helped them to overcome morning sickness.Ugwu juice fights morning sickness!
  10. Helps in treatment of Hepatitis A and Reactivates Liver Function Do you suffer from viral hepatitis A? Ugwu juice can be a solution for you. Make it a part of your regular diet. Also, if you have any problem with liver functions, then pumpkin’s biologically active substances can also help you feel better.
  11. Has sedative benefits Feeling tired or not getting enough of sleep lately? One cup of Ugu leaf juice before you go to bed can help you to fight insomnia. A glass of pumpkin leaf juice with honey is even better than milk with honey!
  12. Lowers high blood pressure risks the juice helps to minimize the risk of high blood pressure. Due to the high level of pectin, this vegetable is at the top among all vegetables that help in reducing cholesterol.
  13. Improves lactation Pumpkin leaves are rich in calcium, so the juice of Ugu leaves is popular among lactating mothers. It normalizes the calcium level and helps women lactate properly.
  14. Boosts weak immunity to boost your immunity, drinking a bit of juice every day is required by most of doctors. Vitamin C and other minerals protect the body from various diseases.
  15. Boosts fertility a recent study shows that pumpkin leaves have the potential to increase spermatogenesis and help women’s fertility.
  16. Prevents convulsion this recommendation is usually given by doctors, who practice ethno medicine. To prevent convulsion, you are supposed to drink pumpkin leaves juice mixed with coconut water. First of all, have your leaves sliced and mixed with coconut water. Then put some salt in it and store it in a bottle.
  17. Protects from infections It is not a secret that Ugu leaves have antibacterial properties, consumption of these leaves on a regular basis will keep you to resist/prevent many bacterial infections.
  18. Helps in digestion It is obvious that pumpkin leaf has high fiber content, so it helps in improving digestion. The juice made from pumpkin leaves is considered as one of the best juices for detoxication.

Profitability of pumpkin leaves business

Basic assumptions

1 plant yield between 500g – 2kg of leaves

Plant population per hectare =10, 000 plants

Least Yield per hectare : 0.5kg x 10000 plants = 5000kg pumpkin leaves

Supposing 1kg of pumpkin leaves sells for N200

Total income : 5000kg of leaves x N200 = N1,000,000

Ugu business is very lucrative and worth investing in.

Read Also: How to Cultivate Grafted Wambugu Apples

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