The health benefits of ash-gourd have long been known. The ash-gourd is mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita for its many nutritional and medicinal properties.
Also known as white gourd, winter melon, white pumpkin, wax gourd, petha, safed kaddu, kashiphal in Hindi, boodida gummadikaya in Telugu, pooshnikai in Tamil, ash gourd is actually a fruit but is referred to as a vegetable because it is cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
Oblong in shape, and 1 to 2 metres in length, white gourd or ash-gourd has a smooth rind that’s an ashy green with white flesh, and big, flat, oval seeds (like the red pumpkin). These gourds have been cultivated since ancient times in countries like India, Malaysia, China, and Papua New Guinea.
In India, the ash-gourd is offered to the gods in religious ceremonies. It is also considered to be effective in warding off evil spirits and the evil eye — hence it’s hung outside newly constructed homes and buildings.
Ash-gourd is now found around the world. In the US, ash-gourd is available pretty much year-round in Indian and Asian grocery stores. It keeps well for a long time and is thus ideal for exporting. What contributes to its longevity is the chalky wax on its skin which prevents micro-organisms from attacking it and preserves it. Uncut pumpkins can be stored for almost a year without refrigeration.
Ash-Gourd and Health
Ash-gourd is loaded with nutrients. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), and vitamin C. It is also rich in many minerals like calcium. Its high potassium content makes this a good vegetable for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Containing almost 96% water, this gourd is a dietitian’s delight. Be sure to include this vegetable in your weght-loss diet.
In Ayurveda and other traditional eastern medicine, ash-gourd juice is used as a general tonic for its restorative properties. Because of the medicinal value of ash gourd, it’s frequently prescribed for treating various disorders.
For in stance, in Ayurveda, ash-gourd is used as brain food – to treat mental illnesses and nervous disorders such as epilepsy, paranoia, and insanity.
Ash-gourd is alkaline in nature and hence has a cooling and neutralizing effect on stomach acids and as such used effectively for treating digestive ailments like hyperacidity, dyspepsia, and ulcers. Ash-gourd juice is a popular home remedy for peptic ulcers. Ash-gourd juice is also used to treat diabetes.
Ash-gourd is also useful in treating respiratory disorders like asthma, blood-related diseases, and urinary diseases like kidney stones.
Every part of this fruit is useful. Ash-gourd leaves are rubbed on bruises to heal them, while the seeds are used for expelling intestinal worms. The ash made from burning the rind and seeds are mixed with coconut oil and used to promote hair growth and to treat dandruff.
Inexpensive and versatile, ash-gourd is a healthful vegetable that should definitely be a part of any nutritious diet.
- Choose full-sized, mature fruit with a hard, unblemished rind. In the US, this gourd is available pre-cut into large pieces and wrapped in plastic. Select those with firm flesh. Store the cut pieces in the refrigerator
- Cut away all of the hard rind and cut into medium pieces before cooking. Ash-gourd cooks very quickly and easily, so be sure to not overcook it. If overcooked, ash-gourd almost dissolves in the water.
- Ash-gourd has a bland taste and absorbs well the flavors of whatever spices you use; as such it’s great for soups, curries, as well as desserts and sweets. Try this simple ash gourd curry.
- Unlike the uncut ash-gourd, cut ash-gourd needs to be refrigerated and even then, it keeps fresh only for 3-4 days.
- How The Banana Goes to Heaven, Ratna Rajaiah
- Home Remedies for Common Ailments, H.K. Bakhru