The winter melon also called wax gourd, white gourd or ash gourd is grown on a vine for its very large fruit that is eaten as a vegetable. Winter Melons originated in southeast asia but now the winter melon is cultivated in east and south asia as well as in India. Many asian families grow this vegetable in their home gardens here in the U.S.
The fruit is fuzzy when young. By maturity, the fruit loses its hairs and develops a wax coating, giving rise to the name wax gourd, and providing a long shelf life. The winter melon requires a warm, humid long summer to grow but can be stored in the winter like winter squash. The winter melon can be stored for up to 12 months. The melons are used in stir fry or to make winter melon soup, which is often served in south east asia in the scooped out melon, that has been decorated by scraping off the waxy coating. The shoots, leaves and tendrils are harvested as greens.
The first time I ever saw a winter melon.......
...was at Epcot Center in Florida. If you go to Epcot and go to the Land, there is a boat ride through the Epcot Center greenhouses. It is an amazing ride through state of the art greenhouses and the vegetable and fruit varieties vary from very common items to rare and foreign vegetables and fruits. You can also take a walking tour through the greenhouse, which of course I highly recommend. It gives you time to ask questions of the tour guide and see the plants and facilities up close.
Some varities of winter melon can be 2-3 pounds but some are also up to 35 pounds. The ones grown at Epcot were the larger variety. This year I found a website online for Kitazawa Seed Co. It is www.kitazawaseed.com They are located in Oakland, Ca and specialize in Asian vegetable seeds. I have an interest in growing asian vegetables because my mother is from Taiwan and I grew up eating a lot of asian cooking. I jumped at the chance to purchase the winter melon seeds as soon as I saw them in the catalog. I chose variety # 170 Oblong, it takes 90 days to maturity and the fruits will be 15-20 pounds and 12 inches in length.
This year we started four plants from seed and I put the first plant along a fence that borders my neighbor's yard. I often grow my luffa gourds or bottle gourds on this fence. It is 6 feet tall and very sturdy farm fencing. I plan to plant the other 3 plants on various other fences and trellis that is available in our yard.
Below is the recipe I will try when I harvest my first winter melon this fall. It is available from Kitazawa seed Co. in the back of their seed catalog...
WInter Melon Soup
Diced beef, chicken or pork
Mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions carrots, etc.
Cut winter melon in half and scoop out stringy portion and seeds, discard (compost or feed to the chickens is what I recommend). Peel the skin and cut melon into large chunks. Slice mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions, etc. Saute ground or diced meat being used for flavoring. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the melon and all the vegetable ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes until melon is tender. Add soy sauce to taste. May add optional ingredients and stir until egg is cooked.
I am excited to be growing this new vegetable at the yardstead. The vine is beautiful, with beautiful flowers and the fruit or gourd can be added to any winter food storage program. This vegetable/gourd is an excellent addition to the yardsteads gardening/edible landscaping/food storage plan.