Lauki or bottle gourd is otherwise also known as calabash, long melon, Chinese melon, luffa which is a vine grown for its fruits either harvested young and used as a vegetable in most parts of the world. The fresh tender fruit has a light green smooth skin and a white flesh inside. There are varieties of gourds, the longer and slimmer is known as the bottle gourd and the rounder variety is called calabash gourds.
The word calabash come from the Spanish calabaza, possibly from Arabic qar’a yabisa “dry gourd,” from Persian kharabuz, used of various large melons; or from a pre-Roman Iberian *calapaccia. The calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not for food but as a container. It was named for the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete).
The lauki have a high water content that makes them cooling and lubricating. The bottle gourd generally has a very pale green smooth skin. The flesh is white. Size and thickness can vary widely. While purchasing a lauki, choose young, firm lauki for best results. Scrape and discard harder portions of skin, and scoop out and discard seeds before cooking. These gourds contain moderate amounts of Vitamins C and B complex and a few proteins.
This vegetable is said to be one of the earliest vegetables cultivated by man, believed to be originated in Africa. Bottle gourd, not very familiar to the western world, is one of the favorite vegetables in Indian Cuisine. It grows in humid weather of India, Sri Lanka and other tropical countries. Bottle Gourd or Lauki has many properties that are valued in traditional healing. Calabash has been cultivated in Europe since before Columbus’s discovery of America, while the rest of the marrow species were brought in from America.
The bottle gourd is low in fat and cholesterol yet high in dietary fibre. It contains 96% water and 100gm of it contains around 12 Kcal. It is rich in iron and also has vitamins C and B complex. It has sodium of 1.8mg per 100gm and 87 mg of potassium making it suitable vegetable for hypertensive patients. It is excellent for light, low-cal diets, as well as for small children, people with digestive problems, diabetics and convalescents.
The calabash, as a vegetable, is frequently used in southern Chinese cuisine as either a stir-fry or in a soup. The traditional Chinese name for calabash is hulu or huzi in Mandarin. In India, it is known by many names likes the lauki, dudhi, ghiya in Hindi, churakka (Malayam), lau (Bengali), sorakaaya or anapakaya in Telugu, dudhi bhopala in Maharashtra and sorakkay in Tamil. The dried and cored thick outer skin has traditionally been used to make musical instruments like the tanpura, veena, etc. Additionally, the gourd can be dried out and used to smoke pipe tobacco.
The Calabash is primarily used as utensils, such as cups, bowls, and basins in rural areas. In South Africa it is commonly used as a drinking vessel by tribes such as the Zulus. It can be used for carrying water, or can be made for carrying items, such as fish, when fishing. In some Caribbean countries it is worked, painted and decorated as shoulder bags or other items by artisans, and sold to tourists. In Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, the calabash gourds are well known to have been used for various medicinal purposes for over a 1,000 years by Andean Cultures. In India according to the naturopathy the lauki juice is very beneficial and has many health benefits. Hindu ascetics (sadhu) traditionally use dried gourd as a vessel called Kamandalu.
The juice of lauki is considered to have many medicinal properties and is very good for health, the baul singers of Bengal have their musical instruments made out of it. The practice is also common among Buddhist and Jain sages. Lauki, dudhi or bottle gourd holds pride of place in the Indian Ayurvedic medical system. Loved by some, and hated by many, the lowly lauki really packs a punch. Besides having excellent nutritional benefits, it is a versatile vegetable that lends itself to a variety of recipes. If you consider lauki boring or tasteless, a little imagination it takes to transform it into a delicious dish. There are a variety of dishes that can be prepared with lauki like the popular and delicious Bottle gourd doodhi halwa, doodhi pachadi, doodhi channa and many more.
Yellowish green in color, lauki is usually shaped like a bottle. Its pulp is white and has white seeds entrenched within spongy flesh. Lauki is 96.1% water, so is light on the stomach and aids digestion. A 100 gm serving of lauki contains just twelve calories and is ideal if you are watching your weight. Lauki has enormous health benefits. Cooked lauki is cooling, calming, diuretic and anti-bilious. It makes you relax after eating. It plays a very important role in treating urinary disorders. A glass of fresh lauki juice mixed with limejuice combat the burning sensation caused by the high acidity of urine. Lauki juice is an excellent remedy for excessive thirst caused by diarrhea, over consumption of fatty or fried foods, and diabetes. Drink a glass of this juice with a little salt added to it to treat this condition. If you are on a low calorie diet, suffering from digestive problems, are diabetic or convalescing, then lauki is must for you as it is easily digestible and low in calories. Juice from its leaves is good for jaundice.
Nutritional value of 100 g of edible portion of lauki (bottle gourd) is:
Energy (KCal): 12
Protein (g): 0.2
Carbohydrate (g): 2.5
Fat (g): 0.1
Calcium (mg): 20
Iron (mg): 0.46