Recipe for Mphangwe (Pumpkin Leaves) Vegetable by Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology

Locate the dark green sprawling mphangwe, squash or pumpkin leaves plants. The first and most important action is that when you approach the long growing pumpkin plants in the garden, in harvesting the leaves for cooking, you nip off with a knife or your fingers only the first three tender or fresh leaves in front of the nose of the plant. This was my mother’s rule. These are the leaves that are the most fresh and tender. You do not just pick up any of the leaves. The coarsest the leaves the worse the taste of the pumpkin vegetables and the harder to cook.

Mphangwe ya Nyungu or Pumpkin or Squash leaves vegetable garden

Once a pound of  the leaves are collected, the tiny prickly looking growths around the stems are individually peeled off of each stem using your hands and fingers. If these prickly small things are not removed that would also ruin the taste of the cooked vegetable.

Wash and dice or cut the leaves into quarter or half inch width.

Recipe ingredients


Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a medium size pot. Heat the oil on high for one minute. Put the diced mphangwe squash leaves into the pot two handfuls of at a time and stir. Once all the mphangwe leaves are in the pot, stir for a minute until all the leaves have shrunk.  Add in the diced tomatoes and onions and stir. Add the salt, the garlic and any other desired seasoning. Stir for two minutes. Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste every few minutes if you like your vegetables medium or well cooked. Take the top off, turn off, and take the pot off the burner to avoid over cooking the mphangwe vegetable. Serve with bread, rice, potatoes, or  a wrap. Zambians eat the mphangwe vegetable with the traditional nshima staple meal cooked from corn or maize meal.

Mphangwe Pumpkin or squash leaves with their long stalks.
You snap and bend back a small piece of the stalk and peel down.
Snip and bend small edge of the stalk and peel down
Peel of all the stringy prick lings.
Cut the mphangwe pumpkin or squash leaves
Dice a medium tomato
Dice tomato
Medium onion
Diced onion
Cooking the mphangwe vegetables
Cooked serving of the mphangwe pumpkin or squash leaves vegetable
The mphangwe pumpkin leaves vegetable is traditionally served the nshima meal cooked with corn or maize meal. But you can serve it with bread, a wrap, rice or as a side dish.