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. It is a good strategy, because a great plant could make you a lot of money. One of the most popular plants that are cultivated in Nigeria is the Ugu plant or the fluted pumpkin.
The Ugu plant
The plant is grown by people in a lot of West Africa regions. However, it is mainly cultivated among the Igbos in Nigeria.
The Ugu leaves may be used as:
✔ Ingredient for soup;
✔ Ingredient for herbal medicines.
✔ For soap making.
But not all the parts of the plant are used, so let’s discuss them.
You can’t eat the fruits of this plant, but you can eat the seeds. They are large and are high in protein and fat. Today, they are becoming wildly popular among those who are on a diet because of their nutritious properties. You can ground them into powder and use for cooking or eat them whole. They can also be boiled or fermented and added to ogili. 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 soups.
As we've mentioned before, the Ugu plant can be used as an ingredient for herbal medicines. It helps to treat malaria, anaemia and sudden attack of convulsion. It has other health benefits too, like:
- Lactating properties, excellent for nursing mothers;
- Hypoglycemic effect;
- Boosts the immune system.
Since we covered the main points about the fluted pumpkin, it is time to talk about growing and nurturing.
Before growing the Ugu plant
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In order to grow the Ugu plant, you need to have a land space of at least 3 meters x 3 meters. The soil has to be rich and loamy. If you don’t have an open land space, you can use a small plastic container with soil in it.
You will also need some organic fertiliser - it may contain droppings of a chicken, for example. You can ask for some fertiliser from a poultry. They are always willing to give away the droppings if you don’t require a lot.
And you will need the seeds! You can obtain them from a market for no less that N100. So, in conclusion, you will need the following:
✔ Rich soil;
✔ Open land space or a container;
Important tip - the place that you choose for planting has to be close to a stream. The roots of the plant will grow dip into the ground.
How to grow the fluted pumpkin seeds?
Now, when you have all the needed ingredients, get ready for some planting!
If you've bought fresh seeds, do the following:
- Take the pumpkin seeds and separate them from flesh and strings. You have to remove all the juicy parts!
- Rinse the seeds with water and leave them to dry for five days.
If you bought dried seeds, you can skip the first two steps and follow the steps bellow:
1. Make ridges in the soil. Note that the seeds have to be one foot apart from each other.
2. Stick the seed in the ground with the exposed part of the seed upward. The part looks like an eye, you won’t be confused.
3. Make sure that the seed is not too deep in the soil.
4. Water the soil.
5. Wait for five days, the seeds should germinate.
6. After five days has passed, place a stick of 1m-2m height close to the pumpkin seed. The plant will climb around the stick while growing. It’s better to use a stick because the plant will grow better when it climbs around something.
7. Water the soil now and then, especially if there is no stream around or during dry weeks.
You can harvest the plant every 3-4 months. However, note that it takes some time before the pumpkin will produce pods. And not every seed will be able to produce the pods! Also, you need to cut the stems of the plant so it will continue to grow. In order to do it, count ten leaves from the root and then cut the stem. You can sell the stems, but you need to cut them into shorter pieces and tie together.
So there you have it - now you know how to plant an Ugu vegetable! You can sell them for money, buy more seeds, land and have your own small business.
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