One vegetable of choice when it comes to Egusi (melon) soup is fluted pumpkin popularly known in Nigeria as Ugwu plant. It is a delicacy and fast selling vegetable with almost all ethnic groups and cultures embracing its goodness. The health benefits of Ugwu plant should not be overlooked.
Fluted pumpkin or ugwu vegetable is a native plant in West African countries making it commonly grown across the region. It is a vegetable that is consumed by all and sundry regardless of economic status.
The green plant is highly medicinal, rich in nutrients with a unique and exotic taste. The health benefit of ugwu vegetable cuts across all ages making it a family’s choice and delight. It can be squeezed out for its juice, cut into melon soup, prepared with other vegetables and alone.
Ugwu can grow almost everywhere and is grown in home farms as well as in commercial quantity. It is not difficult to cultivate neither does it require large mechanization or techniques. It can be available all year round as long as it is properly watered.
Ready or thinking of how to venture into this business? Then stay glued because you’re just in luck and at the right place.
Ugwu Plant (Flutted Pumpkin)
The flutted pumpkin is a tropical West African native plant cultivated for its leafy vegetable. It’s a vegetable commonly used in soups and delicacies across West African region with the southern Nigeria the most famous in the country. The local names include ugwu and ikong-ubong.
The cultivation of ugwu plant includes garden and for commercial purposes. Ugwu doesn’t require too much care once it sprouts and the stakes placed accordingly. It can also be dried for later consumption.
Health Benefits Of Ugwu Plant
Ugwu is a green plant with many nutrients and vitamins. The plant is recommended for everyone regardless of their age or economic status. Some people believe it helps treat anemia and thereby squeeze out the juice and add milk to taste. Nevertheless, the plant has been used in treating many forms of health issues.
Other benefits of ugwu plant includes:
- Aid digestion and strengthens the digestive system.
- Anti-cancer properties as it eradicates free radicals.
- Treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
- Prevention of kidney related diseases.
- Prevention of diabetes and related diseases.
- A blood purifier and strengthen blood cells.
- Some believe the ugwu plant can help treat infertility.
- Regular intake of ugwu plant treats stress and calms the nerves.
- It improves lactation for nursing mothers and boost blood flow for pregnant mothers.
- It helps to build stronger bones and healthy teeth.
- It helps to improve memory and slow memory loss in older people.
Ugwu Plantation Opportunities
Ugwu plant can invariably grow anywhere and this makes it available especially during rainy season. During dry season, the plant is in high demand but a low supply. Opportunities in the ugwu farming business is enormous as long as planting is done in the right way. Some benefits of having ugwu farm or selling in retail includes:
Constant source of food. There is hardly a culture or social class in Nigeria that doesn’t consume ugwu plant. This makes the market available all year round, there is no fear of not selling after harvest.
Source of Medicine. Having stated the health benefits of ugwu plant, you can see that there are many people that would want the plant for medicinal purposes. Ugwu is no ordinary green vegetable, it is a golden one.
How To Cultivate Ugwu Plant
Having the right information on farming ugwu plant is the first step to getting it right and enjoying the lucrative business of ugwu plantation. From planting the pumpkin to pest control and then harvesting, ugwu plantation should be done right.
Planting the Pumpkin seed
Ugwu plant requires steady water supply at its initial planting stage. The planting season is best started in April all through May as the rains are just getting started. An acre of land can take up to 4500 seeds, 3 seeds in a hole of 4cm with an average distance of 2 to 3 feet apart.
The tip of the seed should face down and covered with some soil to avoid direct exposure to sunlight and other harsh weather conditions. Planting should be done at the cool of the day either in the early mornings or late evenings.
A check should be done between 10 days to two weeks after planting and sticks of about 2m placed near each hole. The ugwu plant will climb around the stick and grow better this way.
The ugwu seeds should be watered every two days in the mornings and evenings. This may not be required if the rain is still persistent to avoid it been water logged. However during dry season, constant watering is required to avoid the seeds getting burned. They need the water to stay alive and healthy (green colour).
The best approach is manual weed removal but for commercial farming, the use of herbicides are common. Early weeding is advised in the case of manual weed removal. Mulching can also help to control the weeds on the ugwu plant farm using wood dust and nylon to increase moisture and inhibit the growth of weeds.
Ugwu plant is ready for harvest when the stems are long and firm which can be anytime within three weeks of planting. Depending on how big your farm is, you can harvest periodically. the best way to harvest your ugwu plant is to use knives and cut close to the nodes with a little distance from the bottom of the stem to allow for a continuous growth.
The pumpkin pods which house more seeds is ready for harvest when they drop off and this is usually about the time the tendrils dry up. When planting pumpkin seeds during the dry season, it is best to plant as many as possible as the weather do not favour its growth.
Potential Challenges In Ugwu Farming
As lucrative as the ugwu plant business is, there are still challenges faced by farmers depending on location and the scale. Some of these challenges include:
- Inadequate storage facilities reducing the income of farmers when the waste is enormous.
- Inadequate research activities resulting in poor knowledge of the benefits of the ugwu plant.
- Insufficient funding for commercial production.
- Inadequate government support.
- Insufficient opportunities for export due to low quality products as well as processing machinery.
- Bush burning.
- Theft and animal invasion.
- Pests and diseases.
Ugwu plantation or farming is a lucrative agribusiness all things being equal. It is a business with a ready market, high demand and cost efficient. It is a market we need to explore, a research opportunity for agriculturist and an avenue to earn foreign exchange in the international market.
Are you interested in cultivating ugwu plant in commercial quantity? Or do you want to go into research of the ugwu plant? There is enough opportunities therein and we are rooting for your success. Feel free to share this article for others to learn!