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The winter melon, also called white gourd, ash gourd, “fuzzy gourd”, or “fuzzy melon”, is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable when mature. It is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The fruit is fuzzy when young. The immature melon has thick white flesh that is sweet when eaten. By maturity, the fruit loses its hairs and develops a waxy coating, giving rise to the name wax gourd, and providing a long shelf life. The melon may grow as large as 80 cm in length. Although the fruit is referred to as a “melon,” the fully grown crop is not sweet. Originally cultivated in Southeast Asia, the winter melon is now widely grown in East Asia and South Asia as well.

Winter melon is also a common name for members of the Inodorus cultivar group of the muskmelon (Cucumis melo L), more commonly known as casaba or honeydew melons.

 

Uses

The winter melon requires very warm weather to grow but can be stored for many months much like winter squash. It is commonly eaten throughout winter in countries of deciduous vegetation such as China, as one of the few vegetables available during winter, hence its Chinese name literally means ‘winter melon’. The winter melon can typically be stored for 12 months.

In Chinese cuisine the melons are used in stir fry or usually combined with pork or pork/beef bones to make winter melon soup, often served in the scooped out melon, carved by scraping off the waxy coating. It is also chopped and candied[1] as wintermelon candy (táng dōng guā) to be commonly eaten at New Year festivals, or as filling for Sweetheart cake (lǎopó bǐng). It has also been used as the base filling in Chinese and Taiwanese mooncakes for the Moon Festival.

In North India and Pakistan, the vegetable is also used to prepare a candy called Petha. In South Indian cuisine, it is used to make curries. In Ayurvedic remedies it used to increase appetite also its fresh juice is used to cure kidney stones. The seeds are cooked in milk and taken to increase “sperm count” and to improve sperm locomotion.

Occasionally, it is used to produce a fruit drink which has a very distinctive taste. It is usually sweetened with caramelized sugar, which enhances the taste. In Southeast Asia, the drink is widely marketed as winter melon tea.

The shoots, tendrils, and leaves of the plant may also be eaten as greens.

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Written on April 18th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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