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Pumpkin leaves are large, lobed leaves that grow on hollow stems. They are roundish in shape, and often have serrated edges. They feature three or more veins. They are typically dark green in color, but may be light or grey-green, depending on the variety. They are often fuzzy in texture, and the small hairs may feel prickly in texture. Their flavor is a mix of green beans, asparagus, broccoli and spinach. When cooked, they are soft and taste like boiled spinach and turnip greens.
Pumpkin leaves are available year-round.
Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. They grow on trailing vines that may be trellised. Pumpkin leaves are not often thought of as edible, largely because of their fuzzy texture, but can be eaten raw or cooked. They are valued as a green in parts of Asia and Africa.
Pumpkin leaves are a source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and maganese. They are rich in vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C.
Pumpkin leaves are good raw or cooked. Young leaves were used in salads by American colonists. In Africa, pumpkin leaves are called 'Ugu', and are used in soups and main dishes. In India, they are used in the popular 'saag' dishes in place of spinach. Pumpkin leaves are good steamed or sauteed, and go well with olive oil and garlic. They can be used on coconut-based curries, and can be used as replacements in any recipe that calls for a winter green. Older, tougher leaves may be used as a wrap, the way grape leaves are. Pumpkin leaves must be peeled before use, as they often feature prickly spines on both the leaves and stems. To remove these spines, hold the leaf by its stem. Then, cut the tip of the stem and peel downwards to remove the top layer of the leaf, thus stripping it of the spines. Then, chop the leaves and cook them as desired. Store fresh Pumpkin leaves in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they will be good for around three days.
Pumpkin leaves are known as 'ugu' in Africa, where they are valued as a vegetable as well as a herbal medicine. They are known to be high in antioxidants, and are particularly sought after by pregnant women and nursing mothers.
The exact origins of pumpkins are unknown, but are believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. The oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds were found in the Oaxaca highlands of Mexico. They now found throughout the world.