How to Prepare & Cook Pumpkin Leaves
Pumpkin season is almost upon us in North America. This means that pumpkin patches, farms and gardens are currently blooming with an abundance of tender blossoms and pumpkin leaves, ready for serving. Yum!!!!
For many westerners, cooking pumpkin leaves is an enigma. How do you stop them from pricking you? How do you serve them? What do they taste like? The average African cook however, can probably share a pumpkin leaf recipe or two. In fact, when I once asked my mom for a recipe, she recited an entire recipe book (well, more like 7 recipes) in a two minute span.
Despite all the variations, my favorite pumpkin leaf recipe remains the one that I enjoyed as a child, Muboora (Pumpkin leaves in Peanut Butter Sauce) Not only is it absolutely traditional and delish, the peanut butter adds protein making the dish an excellent vegan choice
I made it in my kitchen and here is a step by step guide for you to do the same.
1 bunch of Pumpkin leaves (about 150g)
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1-2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter (more if you REALLY like peanut butter)
salt to taste
Peri Peri chilli (to taste)
(Can substitute Peri Peri with cayenne pepper)
To Prepare the Leaves:
If you take a very close look pumpkin leaves you will notice little “thorns” along the spine. These prick (ouch) and have an unpleasant mouth feel that can render your dish unpalatable. Younger leaves are more tender and ideal for cooking. Therefore, pick the younger leaves, usually found towards the front of the plant.
To remove the “thorns”, gently break a small portion off the top of the stem and begin to drag it down the leaf. As you do this, you will notice some of the fibers peeling off. Pull through the entire leaf and continue to do this until most thorns have been stripped. When done peeling the from the stem, turn the leaf over and peel the fibers and thorns directly on the leaf. ( I somehow forgot to take a picture of this step but I hope you get the point).
Before (bottom) and after (top) peeling. You will notice that the top leaf is smoother with significantly less thorns. It is almost impossible to get an 100% thorn free leaf so don’t spend too much time seeking perfection. Thoroughly wash the leaves before slicing or tearing the leaves into small strips. Your pumpkin leaves are now ready for cooking.
Now let’s get cooking:
In a small saucepan bring the water, bicarbonate of soda and salt to a boil
Add the pumpkin leaves and tomatoes. Cover and allow to simmer. Stir occasionally.After about 10 minutes your pumpkin mixture will be reduced to about half and the leaf texture will be like a cooked spinach consistency. If necessary, add more water and simmer further. Remove the vegetables and put aside. Reserve the remaining liquid as it contains valuable nutrients leached out of the veggies during cooking.
Add the peanut butter to the reserved liquid and mix well to a paste.
Once the peanut butter mixture starts to bubble add the pumpkin leaves, mix well and allow to heat through. Add the peri peri chilli or cayenne pepper at this time if you want to add a little heat to your dish.Serve hot. I enjoy this with Sadza, a traditional Zimbabwean dish known also known as ugali, nshima, fufu, isitshwala etc but it can be enjoyed with a side of rice
Enjoy pumpkin season…..I know I will!
Here’s to your health.
(Featured image courtesy of Wiki)