Are pumpkin leaves poisonous?

A baby pumpkin growing on the vine with blossom still attached.

A baby pumpkin growing on the vine with blossom still attached.

Edited April 1, 2011.

pumpkin-with-leaves-in-garden

After doing some reading, I concluded that pumpkin leaves are not poisonous and are edible.  I read that pumpkin leaves are eaten in Congo, Zimbabwe, Korea, and other countries around the world.  Why haven’t I seen anyone doing this in my country?

4.6 ounces of pumpkin greens.

4.6 ounces of pumpkin greens.

I am growing a small patch of pumpkin vines just for the purpose of eating the greens.  I collected the batch of tender shoots and the youngest leaves shown above.

Video:  Harvesting and Cooking Pumpkin Greens

To cook

cooking-pumpkin-leaves-olive-oil-garlic

Pumpkin greens and garlic cooking in a cast Iron pan with a bit of olive oil and salt.

Saute greens in olive oil and salt for 5 minutes. Keep moving the greens while cooking.  At the last minute, add fresh garlic.

The pumpkin greens lacked any bitterness that other greens tend to have, which surprised me.  These might be the sweetest greens I have eaten.  Even my son and wife enjoyed them.   The flavor reminded me of a mixture of  green beans, broccoli, spinach and asparagus.

Nutrition

After I ate this plate of greens, I felt full, which surprised me since I had not eaten any other lunch and thought I would eat more after this, but I wasn’t hungry.  I did some reading and see a website that says pumpkin leaves are good for helping you feel full and therefor good for weight loss.

Pumpkin leaves are a good source of Calcium.

Pumpkin leaves are a very good source of:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Manganese.

[ source:  nutritiondata.com, wolframalpha.com]  Nutritiondata.com implies that you could eat the leaves raw, too.  Next time I went to the garden, I picked a small leaf off the end of the vine and ate it right there outside.  It tasted fine, but the texture was not good.  The leaf had a rough, prickly feel.  Cooking definitely made the leaves softer and easier to consume.

In just one week, the patch was ready for another harvest!

VIDEO:  2nd Picking from the Same Pumpkin Vines, 1 Week Later

Growing Ideas

pumpkin-tender-shoots-tendrils2

In the future, I might build a support and train the vines to grow up, then harvest only the greens. Remove the pumpkins when they are small to divert all energy to greens production.

Other Ideas

Try the pumpkin flowers, which are edible.  The flowers are supposedly delicious fried in a little butter or cooking oil.  [ source ]

Try juicing the pumpkin leaves raw.  That would remove the rough texture and preserve any nutrients or enzymes that might be damaged during cooking.

Conclusion

Pumpkins really are a remarkable source of food.  So many different parts to eat:  the fruit – the pumpkin or squash, the leaves, the flowers, and the seeds.  The one part I have not seen anyone eating yet is the roots.  If you want an easy-to-grow, fresh source of greens, consider pumpkin greens.

Related Posts

Squash Bugs – What Are They and How to Get Rid of Them?

Guatemalan Blue Squash

Chirimen Squash

http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2598/2


55 Comments

  1. chipo says:

    Hello,

    in Zimbabwe, Ive grown up my whole life eating pumpkin leaves. My grandmother used to cook them in water, with salt and a little pepper, chop up tomatoes, and throw them in on top. She always made it a point to NOT stir the leaves as she sait would ruin the flavour. so the leaves (called matikiti or muboora) would cook for ab 15 mins until dark green and a fragrant aroma filled the kitchen. Delicious! It is a healthy meal, tasty and high in nutritional value. My grandmother passed away at over 100 years. She ate pumpkin leaves everyday for lunch without fail.

  2. Earl says:

    Thanks for sharing that info from Zimbabwe! I like your grandmother’s recipe and might have to try that. It’s good anecdotal evidence for pumpkin leaves that your grandmother lived so long on them! Thanks also for sharing the other names of this food. I wish you a long life like your grandmother had. :-)

  3. mae says:

    Here in Guam, the chamorro people use this in our chicken soups, fish soups or beef soups. We would pick the tips, and peel some of the hairy portion off so we can easily chew the green stems. It is added in last just a few minutes before we turn off the soup. Very healthy green vegetable. We also have some other ways to using it aside from soups. You can par boil it and dip it into our special sauce(finadene).The big leaves we use it to stuff with other ingredients into it and wrap it up with a string and cook it with either local stuffed crab or stuffed chicken neck.

  4. Earl says:

    Hello Mae in Guam! Thank you for sharing your cooking tips about pumpkin leaves. You show that there are lots of possibilities. It seems that most people agree that the cooking time is minimal for this green, as you say, too. That’s another advantage of pumpkin. Bitter greens from other plants can require longer cooking and sometimes a change of water. I bet you have good seafood in Guam to go with it.

  5. RosieG says:

    I knew they had to be edible, I saw something about the tips and ate one it was delicious. I love the flowers, I tear them up and throw them on top of salad, look terrific and have a lovely mild pumpkin flavour. I cannot wait to try this. I have pumpkin vines going mad in the corner of my garden.

    Thanks heaps for your article.

  6. Earl says:

    I read your post on pumpkin flowers and think that’s a good idea to harvest the flowers, put them in a ziplock bag and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. I’ll have to try that! :-) Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comment. Yes, definitely try the pumpkin leaves and young shoots. You might like them.

  7. Sarah says:

    Hi, I recently found out that the leaves where edible and have been using them in soups and stir fry’s for a while now, I’ve been looking for more recipes with leaves and i really liked your recipe with the garlic, very tasty…They also make a great substitute if your making greek Dolmades and can’t get any vine leaves. Oh you can also eat the baby pumpkins that pop up, as you would zucchini (courgettes).

  8. Earl says:

    Thanks for your comment. I like your tip about the baby pumpkins.

  9. cynthia says:

    We cook it in Seychelles and make pumpkin soup – dropped in the boiled soup water and then take it out quickly so it does not overcook. Yummy! Never had the flowers before.

  10. Raechelle says:

    Since hubby and I just moved onto this property and discovered an abundance of pumpkin vines, I was thrilled to find recipes online that included leaves, flowers and stems. We tried this for the first time the other night-all three saute’d w/olive oil, garlic,cumin and some tumeric that I also found on the property-turned out quite tasty. The texture takes a bit to get used to (of the leaves) but hubby gave it 2 thumbs up. What a fabulous veg to grow!

  11. Earl says:

    Looks like you guys are having a fun adventure. Are you saying that pumpkin vines are growing wild on your property? If so, that’s great to know they are that hardy.

  12. georgia estes says:

    I also grew up in Zambia eating pumpkin leaves. Loved ‘em!
    My folks were American, and so cooked them like Southerners would cook turnip greens…boiled with a little oil and salt.
    Sometimes would add tomatoes, onions.
    Sometimes would cook with “ground nuts” (peanuts ground up.)
    Also…they can be dehydrated and the leaves saved for hard times in the winter months. The Ba-Tonga people would store them in clay pots. They looked crumbled up a bit like some of our leafy spices…when cooked it made a thick green paste…still tasty.

  13. Earl says:

    Thanks for sharing that. Great ideas!

  14. Carol says:

    I have cooked and eaten pumpkin leaves many times in Kenya. The trick is to “string” them–break the end of the stem off so the strings are visible. Hold these strings and slowly peel them down and off the stem and leaf. Then, cut the leaves and stems up into thin strips and boil them for about 5-10 mins. Pour off the water and then fry or cook as desired. I really like to fry them in just a little oil, then add milk and bring just to a boil. Let them sit awhile to absorb the milk (we often left them until the next night). Reheat them just until milk starts to boil then serve. They are really sweet tasting!

  15. Eunice says:

    Just had some for dinner this past Sunday. They are eaten often in Kenya.
    We chopped into fine bits steamed slightly and add to mashed potatoes with peas and sweet corn. We had a goat meat stew to go along with it.
    Recipe:
    http://kenyanfood.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/mukimo-an-interesting-twist-to-potato-mash/

    As seen here–
    http://africa.isp.msu.edu/scali/picnic.htm

  16. Earl says:

    Ahh, that sounds like a great idea, mixing the greens with potatoes. Mmmm.

  17. Rene says:

    Try frying sliced onion until golden brown, add mustard seeds, jeera seeds, garlic gloves and a chopped tomatoe (red chilli optional) and chopped pumpkin leaves. Add salt to taste.

  18. Rene says:

    Was not sure where to edit my comment. I’m indian from South Africa, Johannesburg. This recipe has been taught to me from my mom.

  19. Earl says:

    That’s looks like a very tasty recipe. :-)

  20. MikeA says:

    Only thing is that you didn’t prepare them right (unless you skipped that part). You should peel the rough prickly outer skin off the stems and from the veins on the leaves.

    Typically I’ll pick male flowers early in the season along with their stems. Clean flowers, peel prickly skin off stems and slice stems in half lengthwise and into 1″ pieces and sautés them together. Later in the season I’ll cook and eat leaves (again being sure to peel the prickly skin off the veins in back of the leaves). The flowers are also great for breakfast – just make a thin bowl of whole wheat pancake batter, dunk the flower and cook it like a pancake. It has such a sweet and squashy taste that you don’t even need syrup.

  21. MikeA says:

    One clarification to my prior post. When sautéing flowers and stems together be sure to sauté the stems first until they’re soft and then add the flowers, which will cook very fast and soften and shrink almost immediately.

  22. Kiki says:

    In Zimbabwe we also cook it with peanut butter man it tastes really nice & I love it in Manicaland we call it Mutikiti

  23. odessa says:

    These recipes show that pumpkin plants have great potential as a very nutritious vegetable. The flowers add a floral hint, the greens can be prepared several ways, for stuffing, shredded, chopped or pureed. The squash can be baked, boiled, mashed or eaten as a blossom, sweet or savory. The seeds can be roasted, chopped or salted. The stems may be sautéed, etc.. The only part that doesn’t seem to be consumed are the roots.

  24. Anashe says:

    In zimbabwe there are quite a few pumpkin leaves recipes. Here is a common favorite, delicious if u are a peanut butter lover.

    Ingredients:
    1 bundle muboora (soft pumpkin leaves, note that the leaves get tough with as they grow. u want the soft new ones.)
    2 medium sized tomatoes
    4 tablespoons peanut butter
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Method:
    1. Wash the leaves in cold water, peel the skin & cut into small pieces
    2. Put the chopped leaves into a saucepan & add 1 more cup of cold water
    3. Boil until cooked or tender, drain remaining water into bowl
    4. Put the cooked muboora in another bowl
    5. Return the drained liquid into saucepan, add chopped tomatoes, pepper & dovi
    6. Mix & bring to boil while stirring
    7. Add the cooked muboora & stir until well mixed, reduce heat & simmer for 5-10 minutes

  25. Linda says:

    In Papua New Guinea, we eat pumpkin leaves all the time, more than the fruit in fact. It is sold in bundles at all markets. Here in Cairns, I can find it at the weekend market as we have quite a large PNG expat community.
    Usually we cook up a big pot of mixed root vegetables such as taro, kaukau (sweet potato), tapiok (casava root) and banana. Prepared pumpkin leaves are added about 8 minutes before the roots are cooked and thick coconut cream squeezed over. Lid on the pot, turn the heat to moderate so it steams. Total cooking time from when the pot boils is 20 minutes approx. (test roots with a knife)

    We pick the shoots as far back on the vine as to where they no longer snap cleanly off because these are tender. Small leaves are left whole and stems chopped into lengths.
    If we have used all the young leaves from the vine and need the old, tougher ones, we usually chop them up more finely and add bird’s eye chili
    and cook in a separate pot (bring coconut cream to the boil and drop in)
    Sometimes we add dried fish pulled into pieces…

  26. Earl says:

    That all looks good. Thanks for sharing your methods. I like the idea of dried fish. I don’t see that here in the United States. Maybe I am too far away from the ocean to enjoy what you have.

    I would like to share a tip with you and hope you will consider this, if you have not already. Jesus Christ is alive and will return at the end. To be saved, pray to God from any location, ask forgiveness, and ask Jesus to save you. I feel that we are quickly running out of time, so I must tell everyone I can.

    Peace to you and enjoy those pumpkin greens. :-)

  27. Shams says:

    Pumpkin leaves are a very popular green in Bangladesh

  28. Anonymous says:

    I am from Kerala state, India and we also use pumpkin leaves for cooking. The most common way we use is to chop them and stir fry with cooked lentils and some grated fresh coconut with salt, green chillies and a pinch of turmeric powder. We also stir fry the same way without lentils.

  29. Eddie Mitchell says:

    We also use pumpkin leaves for cooking in Swaziland and is cooked very often. The most common way we use is to clean, chop them and stir fry with onions, garlic, fresh green chilly, salt, cumin and believe you me (try this to make it pop) a spoon of peanut butter towards the end of cooking.
    Let me know if it does it for you.

  30. Hanim says:

    I’m from Malaysia and pumpkin & pumpkin leaves (young sprouts) are definitely edible. The Malays call it “masak lemak labu” or simply translated to mean pumpkin cooked in coconut milk. Very easy dish to use both the pumpkin and young sprouts (not the large leaves). Cut the pumpkin into large cubes 2inX2in as they usually shrink during cooking, some young pumpkin sprouts, a cup of thick coconut milk, a cup of water, shallots, mashed anchovies, sliced red/green jalapenos (chillies), 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, salt (NO pepper required), a bit of sugar. Put all prepared ingredients into a pot on a slow slow boil. Do not overboil as the coconut milk will curd. You will know it is cooked when the pumpkins are nice and soft, the gravy is nice yellow milky color. Eat hot with some steam rice and deep fried fish.

  31. David Knight says:

    I just returned from Lusaka, Zambia. They ate those frequently and they were very cost effective. We didn’t eat the stems, only the leaves and usually dashed in some garlic, butte or oil, salt and pepper and tomatoes or some tomato paste. Serve that with some nshima and you are good to go…or ready to pass out from the nshima.

  32. Antoinette says:

    Hi,

    I am from Zimbabwe. Pumpkin leaves are part and parcel of one the staple diets here (and they grow everywhere!) . During my pregnancy I have been eating them everyday cooked the tradional way with peanut butter, and what a great way to get so many essential vitamins! So glad other people have posted as i will definately give all the recipes a try!

  33. Sandy says:

    I’ve just today tried cooking Pumpkin tops – as we were brought up to call them – My Mom never told me how to cook them so I just guessed. Well! I guessed wrong! I chopped everything up together and boiled with a chopped up potato , onion and garlick and salt and pepper. When all the water had boiled away I added a bit of cream. It was awfully stringy!!!! I know now that I should have stringed the stem part first – it doesn’t pay to take a short cut! (Never to worry I liquidised it!) It did taste good though and I’ve frozen little tubs for future use – My Husband did NOT like it at all – he wasn’t brought up to eat local traditional food. (We live in South Africa!)Some interesting recipes and ideas – thanks to everyone!

  34. lain says:

    my aunt makes jelly out of the blooms when they are at their brightest color. and it is delicious

  35. Esther says:

    I saw pumpkin leaves in the produce section at a Korean market today, which leads me to your website. Thanks! Now I know what to do with this new vegetable.

  36. Nelle says:

    As a young teenager growing up my dad would steam the young leaves with coconut milk and I still continue cooking it seeing it is delicious. Another leaves he uses to used is the lady finger known in our country as Okra. I am from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

  37. doug says:

    i’m am grower and importer in the UK,I have some now but the season is nearing the end.let me know if you need some.

  38. Ashura says:

    Hi, I wondered why some people do not believe that ;pumpkin leaves are good food like other vegetables

    In Tanzania ,most of people eat a cooked pumpkin leaves, DO YOU KNOW HOW WE COOK IT? SEE

    Take the leaves, wash them twice or even thrice because others contain a lot of sand one can feel uncomfortable when eating, Cut them by using cutting board or whatever you like,Use the following spices ;;Onion,carrots,and other spices of your choice.put sunflower oil ,then put onion,carrots and other spices leave for 1 minutes,then put the leaves for 3/4 minutes ,then take out the water which are from the cooked leaves and continue to cook for few seconds NB:do not cooked them for the long time because they will lose its greenish and lose its value like vitamins, proteins and others. Those who are from coast areas like Tanga, Zanzibar and other areas in Tanzania we are cooking them by using coconut- What a nice food for us with a a good smell of coconut. We are Enjoying.

  39. Sarah Lwokyaza says:

    I come from Uganda where tender pumpkin leaves are eaten almost every day in most homes. I appreciate all the above recipes except that in Uganda we believe on boiling the water or mixture of water and spices then we put the pumpkin leaves, pumpkin flowers and the tender pumpkins then else the leaves wont be very soft. Try it with boiling liquid, you will notice the difference in softness. some people add milk too.

    Nature is God’s free given pharmacy, enjoy the health benefits of pumpkin leaves

  40. Dharma says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve got some pumpkin vines growing that don’t fruit – now I know what to do with them!

  41. Mossi says:

    I remember my maid in India use to roast the leaves and stems and then peel of the strings and make a chutney with chilly,garlic and tomatoe and salt, it was delicious.

  42. justine says:

    Hello,
    You can do a million things with pumpkin leaves. Peel off the hairy tops in a way I cannot fully explain in writing. Like break a little bit tip of the stem outward then peel it down towards the leaves, peel the inside of the leaves also to remove the hairy part which comes out so easily.

    Wash them and cut them across the way you would do to kales.
    Boil water to bubbling and throw in a little salt, depends on quantity, boil while you stir for aound five minutes on high heat and remove. Drain off the water, which you could drink!
    Fry onion and tomato then put in the boiled veges. You may add aromat or just leave it natural. Eat with rice, mashed potatoes,meal made out of maize flour, mashed bananas, chapatti etc. You may want to mix with your already separately cooked meat,chicken,fish, peanut stew!

    I said can be used in a million ways!

  43. thatveganchap says:

    I grew up in Zimbabwe before emigrating and one of the foods i miss is pumpkin leaves. A key point is “de-veining” or stripping out the veins and the slightly rough outer layer of the leaf and then cooking it using the variety of recipes that a few of the Zimbabwean contributors have shared. I am a vegan now but i distinctly remember that they could be boiled and a bit of butter rich cream added and it was out of this world. (Muboora or Muriwo wemhodzi (roughly translated to veggies or greens from seeds) is the Shona name for pumpkin leaves.

  44. Adele says:

    I am Nigerian. Apart from the nutritional values of pumpkin earlier stated. It’s good to treat anaemia. My sister use to be quite anaemic. All my mother does is put some pumpkin leaves called ugwu in the blender with water to blend. Sieve it use the leaves to cook and add some evaporated milk to the juice. Give it to my sister to drink like normal juice for 3 days.It’s always worked like magic.

  45. Lillian Shardlow says:

    Pumpkin Leaves, we eat them all the time I n fact l grow them here in Kent every summer you do not eat them raw, you clean the thorny outer stringy fibres , wash cut and boil add oil onions and tomatoes cook for few minutes and enjoyxxxxx
    Bana Chisha Zambian woman_______

  46. Appolly says:

    All this sounds so good. I live in Jamaica and just met someone from Zimbabwe who told me about pumpkin leaves. I like green smoothies for breakfast. I think I’ll try some pumpkin leaves next. Thanks everyone for sharing:)

  47. Michelle says:

    Hi
    I’m Zimbabwean but I live in Australia. I have been looking for pumpkin leaves/muboora since 2011 but I have had no luck.
    I love muboora soo much , haven’t had it for years and now am craving for some so bad.

  48. devendra says:

    Wow!! Had a pumpkin greens After 8 yrs and yes it was delish, People in both rural and urban Nepal don’t wait for pumkin but enjoys the tender greens as the vines can really get and takes the open place around 10 nice tender baby vines can feed up to 4, all u need is deep pan,oil,some cumin seeds n red chilli, ginger, garlic And tomatoes ops salt and chilli according to taste.

  49. Marie Rose says:

    Here in Seychelles my favorite is this one. Deep fry small fish portions and set aside. Peel your tender pumpkin stems and leaves, wash and chop them. In a hot pan, add a little oil, fry onion, garlic and ginger until brown, add water, salt and pepper and let it boil, then add the fish and pumpkin leaves and let them simmer for a few minutes, serve preferably with steamed white rice and a hot chili sauce.
    Bonne appetit.

  50. Na says:

    why don’t you eat it. It’s Vietnamese speciality for ages <3

  51. Tim says:

    Hi All.
    Love all the good comments here… thought I’d add mine as a plant breeder and edibility researcher.

    All squash plants, cucumbers, melons, and even many gourds are edible. The ones that aren’t are bitter. Bitter ones are poisonous so throw them out. You can tell from the taste of any part of the plant whether it is bitter and poisonous. Just yank up any bitter plants so they don’t pass their genes into the pollen and seed crop.

    Some squash strains, like the moschata or butternut group are relatively spineless.
    Tim Peters

  52. farmer joe says:

    If you stuff the flowers with a ground meat of your choice mixed with shredded carrots and cabbage, it’s pretty good steamed. Also if you put the vines with chicken soup, lemon grass, ginger, and some black pepper and salt some good stuff. The more you pick, the more they grow and the little pumpkins are very good in the soup too.

  53. Foodie says:

    If you like the Indian flavour, you ould try pumpkin flower fritters. They are absolutely delicious. The batter is to be made with a mix of chickpea flour and rice flour ,salt,pinch of turmeric, chilli powder, flavouring like asafoetida or cumin etc, and water. Dip the flowers in it and fry in cooking oil.

  54. Spencer says:

    Thank you for sharing. I was wondering what they tasted like. I was watching cooking videos for Nigerian stews and the cook mentioned something about using pumpkin leaves. Yesterday I saw pumpkin leaves at an ethnic grocery (mostly Indian/Nepali stuff but they have other things, too). I can’t wait to make a delicious Nigerian stew with them.

Leave a Reply