Are Pumpkin Leaves Edible?
Not that pumpkin plants need more glory than they already get, but here they go again! You can absolutely eat the squash leaves off this plant. You may need to put in a little elbow grease to utilize the edible leaves, but it is well worth it for flavor and, as a plus, you can get a boost of nutrition.
During this post, we will cover some background information about pumpkin leaves. We will also provide you with all you need to know about how to prepare the leaves and include some yummy recipes for you to try out.
At the end, we will cover the basics needed to grow your own plants for the freshest leaves. Many farmer’s markets and grocery stores may not carry the leafy greens which is why growing them may be a good option for you. You can also buy them online in dry form.
Some Background Info
In many parts of the world, pumpkin leaves are used commonly in cuisines. The United States seems to have a liking for the fruit, but in reality, all parts of the plant can be used.
If you research recipes outside of the ones posted, look into African and Indian cuisines. They use this plant in many dishes and can provide a wealth of inspiration. In West Africa, the pumpkin leaves are called ‘Ugu’ and in India pumpkins are called ‘kaddu’ for reference as you look into different recipes.
Fun Fact – Central America is where they believe the first pumpkins originated.
Parts of Pumpkin Used
- Leaves: Use the youngest leaves. They are often the most tender and have the sweetest flavor. Can be cooked like other leafy greens.
- Flowers: Garnish, fry, and add pumpkin flowers to salads and vinegars. If you are plucking them from your garden, be sure to use the male flowers and leave the female flowers in place so they can develop into fruit!
- Fruit: The classic piece of the plant that most know how to use. Bake, sauté, roast,…the possibilities are endless.
- Seeds: Roast or eat raw; they can be made into butter.
- Stems: The squash shoots can be sautéed or blanched.
Preparing the Leaves For Cooking
Tips For Harvesting the Leaves
Have them growing in your little garden? Harvest the leaves when they are no bigger than your hand. The smaller the leaves on the pumpkin vine the better. The mature leaves tend to be fibrous and bitter in flavor.
The pumpkin needs leaves to continue growing. Practice the philosophy for every leaf you harvest, save two for the plant. The pumpkin will reward you with large and abundant quantities of fruit to eat.
Finally, be sure to check for powdery mildew before harvesting. Don’t just check the top – flip the leaf upside down and spot-check the bottom for the disease. It has a whiteish hue to it.
Wash your fresh leaves from the garden or market.
I have heard of some people eating them without peeling them, but I think that must be a certain variety of pumpkin that is limited in spines. If you have handled pumpkin leaves, most have a fuzzy layer of spines. Many individuals peel the outermost layer which can become time-consuming, but it removes the spines and most fibrous portion of the stems and leaves.
To remove the outermost layer, hold the leaf by the stem and cut the tip of the stem. You will then peel downward and remove the tough layer. You are then set to cook yourself up some pumpkin greens.
- Taste of pumpkin leaves
- Young greens: A flavor mix between different green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and green beans, but a hint sweeter.
- Older leaves: Similar to turnip greens and a bit bitter. Cooking helps tone down the flavor.
- Young leaves: Tender
- Older Leaves: More fibrous and chewy
You can make a variety of dishes with the now infamous pumpkin leaf. Check out the recipes below!
1. Warm and Tasty Ssam Wrap
You can use old leaves for wraps similar to how you can use grape leaves. In this case, you are using tender leaves to make a delicate wrap stuffed with rice and different meats. The author lists 3 different recipes including stuffed pumpkin leaves.
2. Soup That’s More Like A Stew
This is a traditional African-style soup. It is nice and thick and pairs well with a hunk of bread to scoop up the meal.
3. Curry – Different Than You’d Expect
A variation on curry using mustard and turmeric as the main spices. The spices lend the finished product with a beautiful yellow hue and impeccable taste.
The flavors complement each other in this scrumptious, traditional Zimbabwean dish. If you are ready to break out of your shell and try something new, I think you won’t be disappointed.
5. Stir-Fry Side Dish
Try out this side dish where you use mainly the pumpkin shoots, but you can certainly throw in some leaves as well. The crunchy texture of the dish is divine and you can’t go wrong with garlic.
6. Pumpkin Leaves Fritters
Also called “a piece of heaven” in my mind. Seriously though, can you really go wrong with anything fried? Definitely not in this case, and the chickpea flour used keeps it feeling light and crispy.
We had to end this with an easy one that you can do today. Grab the olive oil and follow the recipe to bake the raw pumpkin leaves just like you would collard greens or kale. You will have a snack ready to go that all your friends will love.
Greens always seem to be bursting with nutrients. Pumpkin leaves have even been used as traditional medicine in some cultures. Overall, each part of the pumpkin plant offers an incredible variety of benefits [ 1, 2 ], and I would shy away from focusing solely on the greens. Take a look at just a few benefits these scrumptious delights have in store for you:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C which may help boost the immune system and aid in healthy skin
- Fiber – cleans out the digestive tract
- Calcium – helps you keep strong bones
- Antioxidants- help fight free radicals
- Anti-cancer properties
- May reduce high blood pressure
Are you itching to grow your own pumpkins? Can’t blame you when the whole plant is a complete treasure trove of food as I’m sure you’ve just discovered. You are going to now have a bonus harvest from the leaves I bet you weren’t expecting.
This is a very basic guide to get you started. And don’t you dare procrastinate! If you want a pumpkin patch ready for Fall’s delights, get started when the planting season begins. Many varieties of pumpkins take a long time to fully develop the fruit.
Where to Grow?
Okay, the first thing pumpkins love (and other squash plants too!) is space. Pumpkins are vining plants, so if you don’t have the space horizontally, you need to go vertical with a trellis. Sometimes a trellis is great either way. The wind can get under the leaves and whisk away moisture that stirs up diseases.
This means that even if you only have a balcony, you can put squash in a container, build a trellis, and voila! You are set. Make that trellis nice and sturdy to hold your pumpkins.
Lastly, give that pumpkin plant sun! I should have mentioned that if you grow it in a container you need some sun. The great thing about containers is that you can move them around the porch if the sun shifts. Disregard the funny looks from your roommate or spouse as you inch the plant into the sun throughout the day.
Feed The Plant
Pumpkins love food. Maybe that’s why they are so tasty to eat! So feed those plants to get a good harvest. Compost is your best friend in this regard. There are versions of compost you can even add to your container plants. You may need to give it a boost of fertilizer throughout the growing season.
No need to make it complicated. Water that puppy, but don’t over-saturate it.
One Last Tip
Really focus on getting the leaves airflow. I mentioned a little earlier that it will help reduce fungal infections. It’s a common problem for squash plants. An area that gets a gentle breeze would be lovely for these plants and the younger leaves would thrive.
P.S. If you want to start a full-scale garden, check out our article on how to start a vegetable garden!
I believe you learned some great things today in regard to pumpkin leaves. Did we answer the question “are pumpkin leaves edible?”. We certainly did. In conclusion, I wish you the best as you dive into these recipes. Hopefully, your curiosity was unleashed and you continue to ask yourself the question “is this edible?” to different foods.
You just might be surprised…like are kohlrabi greens edible? They just might be. You’ll have to go exploring in our article.
Please leave any comments and share cool recipes you come up with. We would love to hear about them. And with that…we bid you farewell until next time!
[ 1 ] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103169/nutrients
[ 2 ] Kostecka-Gugała, A., Kruczek, M., Ledwożyw-Smoleń, I., & Kaszycki, P. (2020). Antioxidants and Health-Beneficial Nutrients in Fruits of Eighteen Cucurbita Cultivars: Analysis of Diversity and Dietary Implications. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(8), 1792. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25081792