We eat beet greens, turnip tops and dandelion leaves, bitter melon, jute and even sweet potato leaves. Why not eat pumpkin leaves as well? Pumpkin is edible in its entirety, not just the fruit with seeds, but also the flowers, young stems and leaves. Pumpkin leaves boast quite an impressive nutrition and are high in vitamin K and a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese as well as pro-vitamin A antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. As for their benefits, pumpkin leaves have are low-calorie but energizing and filling and good for anemia-related fatigue and muscle weakness, high blood pressure and poor blood coagulation.
What do pumpkin leaves look like?
The whole pumpkin plant trails along the ground and looks massive. Mature pumpkin leaves are large, deeply lobed and dark green in color, slightly lighter underneath the leaf. They are leathery, but rough on top, with serrated margins that sting upon touch. The older leaves may look crumpled. Underneath, the leaf feels rough. The veins are more prominent underneath the leaf, hairy and prickly. The stem attached to the leaf is also hairy and prickly, empty inside and fibrous in more mature leaves.
Are pumpkin leaves edible raw or cooked?
The whole of an edible pumpkin is typically also edible: pulp, seeds, flowers, young shoots and leaves, even the rind in certain instances. Edible pumpkins are known to be non-toxic which means they can be eaten safety both raw and cooked, and so can the leaves. But because the leaves are hairy and rough and prickly, and taste like plain greens (although better than most other greens), they are preferred cooked. Very young pumpkin leaves and shoots can be eaten raw. Pumpkin leaves that are too old become wilted, dry and rough at the edges and change color from green to yellow and reddish-brown. Pumpkin leaves cook down significantly, similar to other leafy greens.
What do pumpkin leaves taste like?
Pumpkin greens, that is, leaves and stems, are great as food. Cooked pumpkin leaves taste like greens, but without the bitter flavors. They are actually quite pleasant, with a taste reminiscent of sweet green beans. Young leaves have more tender stems and can be eaten together. For the best taste experience, discard stems in older leaves by snapping them off and pulling them backwards – this helps remove all the tough, fibrous material off and leaves only the tender pumpkin leaf. Alternatively, you can just cut the stems and tough parts using a knife.
Also, avoid leaves that are too old. Instead, choose large, fully-formed, but still tender leaves of a uniform dark green color, without any discoloration or damage. Avoid pumpkin leaves that do not look nice or healthy, or have holes in them or dry edges or a gray or white powdery residue on them. The gray or white stuff on pumpkin leaves is actually mold. The disease it causes in pumpkins is known as ‘powdery mildew’ and affects the leaves by causing grayish or white spots of residue that ultimately lead to leaf loss, but can also affect the fruit.
Pumpkin leaves nutrition
Pumpkin greens are edible as well as nutritious. Their nutrition is similar to that of other leafy greens. That is, pumpkin leaves are a good source of dietary fiber, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and pro-vitamin A and high in vitamin K. They are also a modest source of protein, low-carb and low-calorie and very low-fat, but cholesterol-free. Pumpkin leaves contain small amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals, notably B vitamins, calcium and phosphorus and trace amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, choline, selenium, sodium and zinc, but no vitamin D and no vitamin B12.
- Cooked pumpkin leaves (boiled and drained) nutrition facts per 100 g:
- Energy value: 21 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 3.4 g
- Sugars: 0.7 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.7 g
- Protein: 2.7 g
- Fat: 0.22 g (saturated and unsaturated)
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Vitamin A: 80 micrograms/mcg from beta-carotene (960 mcg)
- Vitamin B1: 0.068 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.136 mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.85 mg
- Vitamin B5: 0.042 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.196 mg
- Vitamin B9: 25 mcg
- Vitamin B12: 0 mcg
- Choline: 21 mg
- Vitamin C: 1 mg
- Vitamin D: 0 mcg
- Vitamin E: 0.96 mg
- Vitamin K: 108 mcg
- Calcium: 43 mg
- Copper: 0.133 mg (133 mcg)
- Iron: 3.2 mg
- Magnesium: 38 mg
- Manganese: 0.355 mg
- Phosphorus: 79 mg
- Potassium: 438 mg
- Selenium: 0.9 mcg
- Sodium: 8 mg
- Zinc: 0.2 mg
Antioxidants in pumpkin leaves include:
- Vitamins A, E.
- The minerals copper, iron, manganese.
- The pigmented antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, chlorophyll.
- Other polyphenols.
Pumpkin leaves benefits
Can you eat pumpkin leaves? Yes, you can. Not only are the unusual greens edible, but they’re also nutritious enough to fund a range of health benefits such as the following:
- Depurative properties. Pumpkin leaves and other leafy greens have a laxative effect, stimulating transit and promoting bowel movement regularity, producing a detoxifying effect.
- Cholesterol-lowering properties. It’s not just that pumpkin leaves are cholesterol-free – they’re also almost fat-free and a good source of fiber and vitamin B3 which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and possibly also improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- Blood sugar-lowering properties. Pumpkin leaves are low-glycemic index and low glycemic-load, low in carbs, but a good source of fiber and help lower blood sugar. Their nutritional profile is the reason behind their hypoglycemic effects.
- Good for eyesight. Pumpkin leaves are a good source of pro-vitamin A beta-carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants. Once absorbed, the nutrients become part of the retina and macula lutea areas of the eye and promote the physical health of the eye as well as good visual acuity, color vision and low-light vision.
- Benefits for high blood pressure. Pumpkin leaves are naturally (almost) sodium-free and a good source of potassium (9% of daily requirements) and magnesium (9.5% of daily requirements) and thus good for hypertension, helping lower high blood pressure numbers.
- Benefits for anemia. With almost 18% of daily requirements of iron per 100 g serving, pumpkin leaves combat anemia and associated symptoms such as fatigue and muscle weakness.
- Helps make red blood cells. Eating cooked pumpkin leaves provides generous amounts of iron which helps make red blood cells.
- Potential benefits for palpitations. Eating pumpkin leaves is good for iron deficiency-caused palpitations, breathlessness and other similar symptoms because the greens are high in iron.
Note: To maximize iron absorption from greens, eat with a source of vitamin C.
- Energizing and revitalizing thanks to a good iron content and a varied B vitamin content.
- Help you lose weight. Satiating and filling as a result of a good fiber content, but low-calorie and very low-fat, pumpkin leaves are a good food for healthy weight loss.
- Benefits for pregnant women. Thanks to a good content of iron and a varied B vitamin content, pumpkin leaves help make red blood cells, supporting the increase in blood components of pregnant women, a change required to bring to term a healthy pregnancy.
- Benefits for digestion. Cooked pumpkin greens are easy on the stomach and can help weather stomach upset. Best eaten with an absorbent food such as white rice.
- Promote normal blood coagulation. High in vitamin K, pumpkin leaves can help prevent easy bruising and nosebleeds caused by a deficiency of the vitamin. However, limit consumption of all high vitamin K foods if you have a predisposition for blood clots or are taking anticoagulant medication.
- Benefits for skin from vitamin A and B vitamins.
- Potential benefits for fertility. It has been proposed that pumpkin leaves are good for fertility in men.
Pumpkin leaves recipe ideas
Pumpkin leaves are edible, nutritious and taste nice, but how do you eat them? Just like you would any other leafy greens. African, Middle Eastern, Asian and also Central and Eastern European cuisine all make great use of all sorts of unusual garden greens and field greens, including pumpkin. And the recipes to incorporate them in are endless. Here are some delicious examples:
- Italian-style vegetarian pumpkin leaves lasagna. Make the lasagna as you normally would. But in between the lasagna layers add chopped pumpkin leaves stir fried with finely chopped onion, grated ricotta or Parmesan on top and the classic bechamel sauce. Optional: add tomato sauce.
- Pumpkin leaves rolls (Eastern European cuisine influences): The tough stem and fibrous material are removed from the leaves, after which they are blanched. A mixture of rice and meat, rice and vegetables, rice and raisins or dried plums, meat and vegetables, or just vegetables is prepared and rolled into the leaves. Usually the rice is fully boiled, while the meat and vegetables are only half-cooked (for flavor mostly). The rolls are then boiled until soft. If the recipe is meat based, stuffed pumpkin leaf rolls can be cooked with pieces of pork ham or lard for more flavor.
- Pumpkin leaves soup (Eastern European recipe). A traditional Eastern European-style soup. An onion is chopped finely, then sauteed in a vegetable oil. Pumpkin leaves and sometimes also tender stems are cleaned and large chopped; the sauteed onions are added and then everything is boiled. The resulting soup is seasoned with salt and soured with green plums or green cherry plums.
- Simmered down pumpkin leaves with onion or garlic. A favorite recipe for leafy green enthusiasts. Clean and large chop pumpkin greens (leaves and tender stems), them simmer down in a little bit of water for a few minutes. Stir fry with minced garlic or finely chopped onion. Season simply with salt. Tomato sauce may also be added for a more acidic flavor, hot chili pepper for spiciness or grated carrot for a little bit of sweetness. It can be eaten as it is or added on top of spaghetti or rice.
- Quick bean and pumpkin leaf recipe. Canned beans of your choice. Drain and throw in a pan with olive oil and large chopped pumpkin leaves until the greens cook down. Season with salt and pepper. Optional: add sauteed onions.