Ash gourd also known as winter melon or white pumpkin is a very large fruit and is eaten as a vegetable when it matures. It has a white flesh and a sweet taste however when it matures it forms a waxy surface this is the reason why it is also called wax gourd. It has a hard, greenish cover with white pulpy fruit inside. In India it is used mostly used to prepare a sweet called Petha. It has a length of about 80 cms and is widely grown in South and East Asia. It requires a very warm weather to grow but can be easily stored for many months.
One of the biggest advantages of this vegetable is that it can be stored for over 12 months.
It is popularly used in making soups and sweet dishes in China as it is one of the few vegetables, which are available in the winters. Used in many traditional Vietnamese soups and stews.
In Taiwan it is used as the base filling in mooncakes for the Moon Festival. Mooncakes are an ancient Chinese preparation, which may have either a sweet or a savory taste. It is popular in many other countries as well such as Japan, Indonesia, Phillipines and even in the United States.
Popularly grown in southern India, it is used to prepare a traditional sweet called “petha” and is also used in making curries. Often used in India to make liquefied dishes along with dairy products.
When small, the winter melons are used as fruits to prepare certain fruit drinks as they are sweet, but once they mature they lose their sweetness and are essentially used as vegetables.
The tendrils, shoots and leaves of the plants are also consumed for their nutritional content as greens.
Ash gourd is a very good source of various nutrients. It contains calcium and helps to maintain the blood pressure. It cures many digestive diseases like ulcers or dyspepsia and it even treats diabetes. It is also very helpful in treating asthma and prevents the formation of kidney stones. It's fresh juice is believed to cure kidney stones.
Ash gourd belongs to the pumpkin family and was bitter and inedible however proper cultivation has made it into a sweet and edible food crop.
It is the only crop that has existed in both old and new worlds in pre - Colombian times.