Telfairia occidentalis is a tropical vine grown in West Africa as a leaf vegetable and for its edible seeds. Common names for the plant include Fluted gourd, Fluted pumpkin, and Ugu.
Ugu is a member of the curcurbitaceae family and is indigenous to southern Nigeria. The fluted gourd grows in many nations of West Africa but is mainly cultivated in Nigeria, used primarily in soups and herbal medicines. Although the fruit is inedible the seeds produced by the gourd are high in protein and fat and can therefore contribute to a well-balanced diet. The plant is a drought-tolerant, dioecious perennial that is usually grown trellised.
Telfaira occidentalis is traditionally used by an estimated 30 to 35 million people Indigenous people in Nigeria, including the Efik, Ibibio, and Urhobo. However it was predominantly used by the Igbo tribe, who continue to cultivate the gourd for food sources and traditional medicines . A recurring subject in the Igbo’s folklore, the fluted gourd is noted to have healing properties and was used as a blood tonic, to be administered to the weak or ill . Ugu was an asset to international food trades of the Igbo tribe.