Fruits & Vegetables Herbs & Plants

Ash gourd(Winter Melon)

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Botanical Name :  Benincasa Hispada
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Subfamily: Cucurbitoideae
Tribe:     Benincaseae
Subtribe: Benincasinae
Genus:     Benincasa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Cucurbitales

Common Names : winter melon, white gourd, winter gourd, tallow gourd, Chinese preserving melon, or ash gourd

It is called  in Hindi, Boodagumbala in Kannada or Kumbalanga in Malayalam, Upo in Tagalog), also called white gourd or ash gourd or petha, is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable. In Bengali “Chal Kumro“The fruit is fuzzy when young, giving rise to the name fuzzy melon . 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. The melon may grow as large as 1-2 metres in length. The word “melon” in the name is somewhat misleading, as the fruit is not sweet.

Habitat : Originally domesticated in Southeast Asia, the winter melon is now widely grown in East Asia and South Asia as well. In North India it is cut into rectangular pieces and boiled in a sugar syrup to create a translucent, almost clear candy or sweet, and is often flavored with rose water. In this form it keeps and cans well allowing it to be sold in canned form around the world. In South India it is used to make curries.

The winter melon requires very warm weather to grow but can be kept through the winter much like winter squash. The winter melon can typically be stored for 12 months. 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.

Occasionally, it’s used to produce a fruit drink which has a very distinctive taste. It is usually sweetened with caramelised sugar, which enhances the taste.

The shoots, tendrils, and leaves of the plant may also be eaten as greens.

Winter melon is a common name for the inodorus cultivar group of the muskmelon (Cucumis melo L), or one of its members alternatively known as casaba, honeydew, or Persian.

Benincasa hispida is an annual plant growing to 6 m (19ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in leaf 10-Jun It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.
Requires a warm sunny position in a rich well-drained soil and plenty of moisture in the growing season[1, 200, 238]. Established plants are reasonably drought tolerant[206]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.8 to 6.8. This species is not very frost hardy, it is best grown in a greenhouse in Britain[86] but can succeed outdoors in good summers if started off in a greenhouse and planted out after the last expected frosts. Plants require stable temperatures in excess of 25°c if they are to do well. Short daylengths and lower temperatures stimulate female flower development, higher temperatures stimulate male flower production. Plants take 5 months from seed to produce a mature crop, though the fruits can be eaten when immature. The wax gourd is frequently cultivated for its edible fruit in the tropics, there are many named varieties. One group, sometimes classified as B. hispids chieh-gua, is known as the hairy melon or jointed gourd. This form is grown for its immature fruit in much the same way as courgettes are used. Mature fruits of this form do not develop a waxy coating. The fruit can be harvested about 3 months after sowing.

Seed – sow March/April in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 3 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on fast in a rich compost in the greenhouse. Try to maintain a minimum night temperature of at least 10°c for the seedlings first few weeks. Plant out in May/June after the last expected frosts

Edible Uses  
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses:


Fruit – raw or cooked. Used as a vegetable, and in pickles, curries and preserves. The fruit can be eaten when it is young or old, it can be picked as early as one week after fertilization. A juicy texture with a mild flavour, the flavour is somewhat stronger in younger fruits. Because of its waxy coating, it will store for several months, sometimes as long as a year. Mature fruits can vary in weight from 2 – 50 kg. A nutritional analysis is available. Young leaves and flower buds are steamed and eaten as a vegetable, or are added as a flavouring to soups. Seed – cooked. Rich in oil and protein.

Medicinal Uses:

The wax gourd has been used as a food and medicine for thousands of years in the Orient. All parts of the fruit are used medicinally. The rind of the fruit is diuretic. It is taken internally in the treatment of urinary dysfunction, summer fevers etc. The ashes of the rind are applied to painful wounds. The seed is anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative and tonic. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of vaginal discharges and coughs. In combination with Rheum palmatum it is used to treat intestinal abscesses. In Ayurvedic medicine the seed is used in the treatment of coughs, fevers, excessive thirst and to expel tapeworms. The oil from the seed is also used as an anthelmintic. The fruit is antiperiodic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, laxative and tonic. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine in the treatment of epilepsy, lung diseases, asthma, coughs etc. The fruit juice is used in the treatment of insanity, epilepsy and other nervous diseases. Recent research has shown that the fruits contain anti-cancer terpenes. An infusion of the root is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea. Demulcent, salve. Facilitates pus drainage.

Asafoetida is extensively used in the treatment of nervous disorders of children.It is useful for alivating toothache.

It is useful for treating Respiratory disorders, Impotency,Hysteria,Spermatorrhoea and Stomac Disorders.

It is considered to be very useful in the treatment of several problems concerning premature labour, unusual pain,leucorrhoea,sterility,unwanted abortion and excessive manstruation. It excites the secretion of progesterone hormone.The herb is very useful for women after child birth.It can be taken with beneficial results during the post delivery period. It is also used as an antidote of opium.It counteracts the effect of the drug.

Other Uses:

A wax that coats the fruit is used to make candles. The roots have considerable resistance to soil-borne diseases and they are sometimes used as a rootstock for melons and other cucurbits