Water leaf is a very powerful vegetable leaf and it is found mostly in the southern part of Nigeria.
Water leaf is a kind of vegetable that is green in colour, it is used for cooking soup and contains large amount of water which normally comes out when it is being cooked, which is where it derived it’s name from.
As the name implies, this vegetable has huge number of water when being cooked or heated, so does not require any other water when making the soup.
In this article, I will explain every information you need to know about this vegetable and how to farm it.
There is no proven or known origin of water leaf, so am not interested in that, but informations about it.
HOW TO FARM WATER LEAF
Water leaf is a very good business as it is very costly in Eastern and Western part of Nigeria, especially in Calabar and igbo land because almost every body in that part of the world love the water leaf soup also known as – Ofe water leaf.
In some places like owerri, this vegetable is very common that it grow on there’s own any where and litters in many farms and gardens on it’s own without anybody planting them.
This normally happens around rainy season. Although it litters everywhere during this particular season, but to my amazement, people will still finish it and it will still be scarce, that was how I knew how important this vegetable is and the kind of economic benefits it stands to give any farmer cultivating it.
Enough of talking, now let’s dive into how to cultivate this vegetable crop.
First of all, before thinking of going into this, you will need at least a plot of land or half, although you can grow them in your backyard if it is big or in a container, but in a small quantity. Choose the land where there is enough sunshine and enough water or rainfall and avoid lands that have trees and tree roots, unless you cut them down and uproot all the roots.
You can also grow it as a mixed crop with others crops like cassava, Cocoyam,beans, and many of them, but it is not good to mix them or farm them together with crops like yam, potato, cucumber, fluted pumpkin,as these crops will over shadow them and they will not grow healthy.
Now let’s assume you have a land, clear it and spray animal waste products (dungs) on the land or compost and leave it for few weeks so that the rain could mix those manure into the soil properly and increase the soil nutrients. Loamy soil is the best for water leaf farming.
After a week or 2 with good rain fall, plough the land and do farm beds for them, because it does well on farm beds other than on normally land.
Make small holes of about 2 inches or 3 inches deep on the farm beds you made.
go and uproot some of them that grow careless everywhere and plant them in your farm, or you can go to the market and buy them. Water leaf does not only grow from it’s root alone, it also germinates from it’s stem and seeds.
Although I don’t recommend you to go and plant the stem or the the seed, as it will take longer time to germinate and grow, but the root is very fast and can only take few days to grow and match the new farm land you put them in or transplanted them to.
So after you have gotten your water leaf, plant them in the holes you made in your farm bed, keeping the root in the ground, the stem out and cover the root with sand and pour water to them and cover the roots with compost if you like, but it helps.
PEST CONTROL IN WATERLEAF FARM
After you are through with the farming of this crop, and they begin to grow, the most important step is to control or take care of pests that will harm the crops.
Water leaf has many pests such as fowl, lizard, squirrel, and caterpillar.
It is very important to cover the farm land with nets so as to prevent fowls from entering inside the farm and use scarecrow to scare away squirrel, birds and lizard, as for caterpillar, use insecticide to kill them.
WEEDING Of WATERLEAF FARM
Weed is another factor that disturbs this vegetable, within some weeks of cultivating, weeds will sprout out from every angle (as water leaf looks like it attracts weed). So be ready to to take them out anytime they sprout out either with hands or hoes or weed killer.
Although weed does not seem to impact much damages to water leaf crops, as it does to other crops because water leaf is a fast grower and out-grows any weed, but they still need to be removed anyway, just in case they breed insects and to make the farm look nice.
This vegetable is a fast grower and so it matures very fast. Some breeds do mature in less than one month and some do mature after a month, but in other words, you may not wait for it to mature as you can start picking the ones you can cook with once the leafs comes out.
When the leafs gets bigger and dark green, this is a sign that it is matured enough to harvest them and thus time to do it .
To harvest this vegetable is very easy, go to the farm with kitchen knife and a basket, and cut them from their stems and remove and spread their seed on the farm land, if there is any, as the seed although takes long time to germinate, but will eventually do and multiply the number of water leaf in your farm.
It is preferable to harvest in the morning or anytime you want to sell or cook with it. This is because you can’t keep water leaf for even for a day as it is a very perishable crop.
Once you harvest, go immediately to the market,supply to buyers at restaurants or use personally immediately, avoid leaving it for a whole day because before the next day, it will decay and melt, forming water.
STORAGE OF WATERLEAF
I can categorically tell you that for now, there is no good storage system or strategy for this crop! Even in refrigerator, they still spoil and goes into water, so like I said earlier, don’t harvest them if you ain’t ready to do away with them immediately or you did be sorry!.
USES/IMPORTANCE OF WATERLEAF
Water leaf just like other vegetables like fluted pumpkin, Green etc has one thing in common, they are very rich in vitamins and minerals and is used as medication to cure some sickness and diseases, and also is said to be a blood tonic.
It is a good food which every one love and enjoy, even animals are not exempted from this.
Financially, it has the tendency to sustain farmers and traders with good and sustainable source of income as it is very costly and high in demand, a bunch of this vegetable cost about N300 to N500 depending on the location.
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