Snake gourd or other commonly known names are the serpent foud, chichinga, padwal, potakaaya, pathola, pudalankaai, dhunduli, pauvalakaayi and padavalanga. The botanical name Trichosanthes cucumerina is a tropical or subtropical vine grows strikingly long and used as a vegetable or medicine and seldom known by many. It is believed to have originated in India.
They are extremely long vegetables and related to the common cucumber. They are cultivated in Southeast Asia, China, Japan, West Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and tropical Australia. Snake gourds can reach enormous lengths of more than six feet, with a diameter of up to four inches. The gourd is quite inedible when turned yellow to red. Inside, the seeds are packed in a red spongy pulp. Another peculiar feature is the flowers and their delicate, white, very aromatic flowers are fringed with fine hairs (Tricosanthes means hairy flower). In Asia, Africa, and their native India, this slightly sweetish gourd is enjoyed as a cooked vegetable or as a substantial addition to soup or chutney.
The snake gourd is thin narrow soft skinned vegetable which can reach upto 150 cm long. Its soft, bland mucilaginous flesh is similar to the calabash. It is most popular in the cuisine of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The shoots, tendrils, and leaves are also eaten as greens. The snake gourd otherwise also known as Chinese cucumber occupies an important place among vegetables in India. It is an annual plant and belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae. This vegetable produces long and curved fruits that appear like snakes hanging on the supports or ground. This subtropical plant grows very fast in warm climates and produces lots of fruits for a long time. It is best to grow this vine plant along the supports for obtaining young straight fruits.
The plants are commonly grown in South India for their snake-like grayish white spongy fruits. They are also grown in North India but mostly in home gardens. The snake gourd is a very nutritious vegetable and is a natural antibiotic, expectorant and laxative. As per the Indian fold medicine it is said that this vegetable is a tonic for the heart, helps stimulate the production of body fluids, relieving dryness. This vegetable creates a cooling effect in the body.
In India, the snake gourd is used as curry vegetable and also cooked in milk with spices making an amazing stew. They can also be pickled. The stem tips and leaves are edible, but boiling is essential to remove the unpleasant odor.
A 100 gms of snake gourd contains only 20 calorie and they are rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium and phosphorous. The fruit is also rich in dietary fibre and contains many medicinal compounds.
The nutritional values per 100g of snake gourd are:
Energry: 18 Ecals
Moisture: 95 g
Protein: 0 g
Fat: 0 g
Mineral: 0 g
Fibre: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Calcium: 26 mg
Phosphorous: 20 mg
Iron: 1 mg