Ugwu farming is lucrative and requires low investment to achieve high yield. The vegetable is popular among the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria. Scientific name is Telfairia occidentalis while the local name is fluted pumpkin, the leafy green is easy to grow and common to West Africa.
Popular in many local cuisine, it is used to make Egusi ( pumpkin seed soup ), Efor (vegetable soup) Ogbono dishes. Other non culinary uses of ugwu Include making of soap or use by herbal practitioners.
Although believed to have many medicinal properties by herbal practitioners, wide research of the health benefits have not been substantiated.
If you are interested in starting an Ugwu farming business then this article covers all the basic information you need.
Uses of Ugwu
The leaves are high in protein and used in many traditional medicine. The flour is used to make high protein bread, and leaves used in local dishes.
Pest and pathogens
Pod rot is a serious concern during transportation from farm to market, while common pests are insects, livestock like goat or sheep.
The fluted gourd pod is highly perishable and whole gourd susceptible to pod rot, however the seed can store up to 4 weeks in ideal storage conditions.
It is easy to grow ugwu especially in West Africa because of the tropical climate. A small investment is possible on half plot of land with good results.
Make sure the soil has good organic matter, compost, with PH level of 6.5 to 7.0. It is important for the vegetable to get at least 8 hours sunlight, and provide water for faster growth.
Ugwu will grow in your garden or farmland, however the harvest depends on the land mass, variety of ugwu planted.
Ugwu fruit is inedible however the seed is high in protein and fat. The seed produced by the gourd has a large oblong or round shaped seed depending on the species. Make sure the one selected produce large leaves.
A single pumpkin pod can contain up to one hundred seeds. Purchase the seeds from the local market or farmers in your area.
Before planting you need to remove the fleshy strings around the seeds. This prevents the seed from getting rotten in the soil. To remove the juicy flesh run water on the seed and use your fingers to remove the strings. This procedure is only applicable to fresh seeds, however if the seed is bought dried it is ready to plant.
In our experience, use the fleshy ones instead of the dried ones for best results. Once you have removed the juicy flesh sun dry for a few days until completely dry, treat seed with insecticide or fungicide mixture to prevent fungal growth or insects.
To grow ugwu you need to select the site and prepare the land for planting. Clear the site, remove any weeds to prevent competition for nutrients. Add organic matter 14 days before planting.
Plant ugwu about one month before the rainy season, this will allow the roots properly establish.
Dig a hole and plant the seed vertically with pointed side inserted into the soil. Make sure the depth doesn’t exceed 25cm deep and space them in a row 1 foot apart.
Weed every 2 weeks and water the plant daily until the rains arrive and apply NPK fertilizer 30 days after planting.
Once the ugwu germinates stake by placing a stick for the plant to climb. To increase the offshoot and lateral growth of the vine apply topping of the vine. Every 3 weeks cut 6 to 7 leaves from the top to encourage spreading.
Secure the farm
Apart from humans many wildlife, insects and domestic animals love to eat the leaves. To prevent loss use wire gauze to build a perimeter fencing around the plant. This should prevent goats from eating the leaves.
The beauty about ugwu is that harvesting can commence in 60 days. To extend the plant life you can harvest every 21 days for 8 months.
Harvesting is done buy cutting the green stem with a shape knife. Make sure you leave enough leaves and stems so it continues to grow and spread.
Selling the produce
There are two ways to sell your produce, wholesale or retail. Sell directly to customers from your farm or to ugwu merchants in the market. Luckily the leaves are in high demand and easy to sell.
Ugwu farming is lucrative and low cost business. It requires good site, healthy seeds, staking and water. It is easy to start from your home garden and expand the operation once you have established a market.
We at agricfarming don’t just write article we practice what we preach. Below is a video of one of our ugwu plants. Thanks for reading do come back for more interesting articles.