Ash gourd also known as winter melon, white gourd or fuzzy melon is a annual vine grown and eaten as a vegetable. There are a variety of gourds where ash gourd is one variety which is almost round or oval in shape. It is the only member of the genus Benincasa.
Originally cultivated in Southeast Asia, the ash gourd is widely grown in China, India and other parts of East Asia. 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. Winter melon is also a common name for members of the Inodorus group of the muskmelon (Cucumis melo L), more commonly known as casaba or honeydew melons.
The ash gourd is known by many other names in India regional wise like komora (Assamese), pethakaddu (Hindi), boodagumbala (Kannada), Kumbalanga (Malayalam), Kohla (Marathi), neer poosanikai (Tamil) and Boodida gummadikaya (Telugu).
Petha is candy prepared with this vegetable in North India and Pakistan. In South Indian cuisine, the ash gourd is most used in preparing the sambar or curry. Occasionally, it is used to produce a fruit drink which has a very distinctive taste. It is usually sweetened with caramelized sugar that enhances the taste. Winter melon tea is a special drink that is prepared in Southeast Asia. The ash gourd grows in warm weather but could be kept through the winter much like the winter squash.
The melons are used in stir fry or to make winter melon soup, which is often served in the scooped out melon, which has been intricately decorated by scraping off the waxy coating. The shoots, tendrils and leaves of this plant is also eaten as greens. Ash gourd contains plenty of moisture and petite amounts of fat, protein, carbohydrates and fibre, apart from calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and Vitamin C.
Ash gourd have enormous medicinal properties as it make a valuable place as a popular natural cure of ailments in traditional medicinal practices. It is a natural healer. Being low in calories it is an ideal vegetable for diabetic patients and good for weight control. It also acts as a good detoxifying agent.
As per Indian ayurveda, ash gourd is used to treat epilepsy, asthma, lung diseases, urine retention, internal haemorrhage, and cough. It is said that the fruit juice is also effective in cases of mercury poisoning and snakebites. It could also treat mouth cancer, protecting teeth and gums when a mouth gargle of the juice is done regularly. It is also effective in bleeding of gums. Ash gourd is easily digestible and keeps the body cool. It is a natural blood purifier.
Ash gourd is rich in moisture and contains small amounts of fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, besides calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and vitamin C. The nutritious value of ash gourd makes it a popular diet ingredient in making sweet curries, soups, and tea.
The nutritional values per 100 g of edible ash gourd are:
Energy: 10 KCal
Protein: 0.4 g
Carbohydrate: 1.9 g
Fat: 0.1 g
Calcium: 30 mg
Iron: 0.8 mg