- Winter Melon
- Uses of Winter Melon
- Ash Gourd
- Recipes using Ash Gourd
- Health Benefits of Ash Gourd (Winter Melon)
- Ash-Gourd and Health
- Winter melons: A new crop for Michigan growers
- How to grow winter melon （冬瓜）
- Winter Melon Healing Properties and Recipe
- Winter Melon for Summer Heat
- Winter Melon, Job’s Tears and Dried Mussel Soup
- 9 Surprising Benefits of Winter Melon
- What is Winter Melon?
- Health Benefits of Winter Melon
Winter Melon is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The fruit is fuzzy when young. The immature melon has thick white flesh that is sweet when eaten. 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 80 cm in length. Although the fruit is referred to as a “melon,” the fully grown crop is not sweet. It has yellow flowers and broad leaves.
It is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. The winter melon is widely grown throughout Asia, including Java and Japan where it is thought to have originated from.
Winter melon is also a common name for members of the Inodorus cultivar group of the muskmelon (Cucumis melo L), more commonly known as casaba or honeydew melons.
It is grown in well drained loam and sandy soils, in warm mild climates, but will not tolerate frosts. The crops are grown in riverbeds or furrows, and needs constant irrigation during the growing season.
Uses of Winter Melon
The winter melon requires very warm weather to grow but can be stored for many months much like winter squash. Ash gourds of the Indian subcontinent have a white coating with rough texture. South East Asian varieties have a smooth waxy texture. It is one of the few vegetables available during winter in areas of deciduous vegetation, hence its Chinese name literally means ‘winter melon’. The winter melon can typically be stored for 12 months. In India, ash gourd is recognized for its medicinal properties in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
In Vietnamese cuisine, it is called bí đao, which is usually used to make soup or stew. When cooked with pork short ribs, the resulting soup is traditionally thought to help produce more milk for breastfeeding mothers.
In Chinese cuisine the melons are used in stir fry or usually combined with pork or pork/beef bones to make winter melon soup, often served in the scooped out melon, carved by scraping off the waxy coating. It is also chopped and candied as wintermelon candy (táng dōng guā) to be commonly eaten at New Year festivals, or as filling for Sweetheart cake (lǎopó bǐng). It has also been used as the base filling in Chinese and Taiwanese mooncakes for the Moon Festival.
Winter melon is candied (referred to plainly as kundol) and is used as a pastry filling for bakpia (hopia in the Philippines). It is also an ingredient in some savory soups (sabaw) and stir-fries (guisado). It is one of the vegetables mentioned in the Filipino folk song “Bahay Kubo.”
In Indian cuisine the vegetable is traditionally used to prepare a wide variety of dishes. In northern India it is used to prepare a candy called Petha. In South Indian cuisine, it is traditionally used to make a variety of curries, including a liquefied dish with curds or buttermilk. The juice of raw ash gourd is used by the Mizo community of North-East India as a natural remedy to treat mild to severe dysentery.
Occasionally, it is used to produce a fruit drink with a very distinctive taste. It is usually sweetened with caramelized sugar. In Southeast Asia, the drink is widely marketed as winter melon tea or winter melon punch.
The shoots, tendrils, and leaves of the plant may also be eaten as greens.
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.
Did you know?
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.
Ingredient Categories: Vegetables | Spices And Herbs | Cereals And Pulses | Meat | Dairy Products | Fruits | Seafood | Sugar And Sugar Products | Nuts And Oilseeds | Other Ingredients
Recipes using Ash Gourd
Avial (Mixed Vegetable Curry)
A soothing vegetable curry from all the way from Kerala. Made with Southern flavours of raw bananas, drumsticks, ash gourd, yam and coconut. Recipe Ingredients: Hung Curd, Coconut Oil, Green Chillies, Curry Leaves, Carrot, Drumstick, Potatoes, French Beans, Salt, Cumin Seeds
A comforting curry which is a fresh mix of Southern veggies like raw banana, ash gourd, drumsticks, yam and coconut. Recipe Ingredients: Coconut, Cumin Seeds, Yogurt, Curry Leaves, Coconut Oil
Pulissery is an authentic Kerala recipe made with buttermilk and cucumber. A perfect blend of subtle flavors. Recipe Ingredients: Buttermilk, Curd, Cucumber, ash gourd, yogurt, garlic, shallots, turmeric, coconut, cumin seeds, green chillies, red chilli, fenugreek, mustard seds, curry leaves, coconut oil, Salt
Celebrate Onam with Kerala’s traditional dish – Avial. Vegetables like drumsticks, yams, carrots, pumpkin and beans cooked with curd, coconut and varied seasonings. Recipe Ingredients: drumstick, yam, carrot, ash gourd, pumpkin, plantain, turmeric, Salt, yogurt, coconut oil, cumin seeds, curry leaves, coconut, green chillies
Stir Fried Mushrooms
Oyster and soy sauce enriched mushrooms served with stuffed bamboo shoot and Chinese cabbage. Recipe Ingredients: Mushroom, bamboo shoot, pumpkin, salt, sugar, oyster sauce, soya sauce, rice noodles, Ash Gourd, cabbage, vegetable oil
Parwal or pointed gourd cooked with potatoes and lots of spices. Recipe Ingredients: ash gourd, potatoes, vegetable oil, cumin seeds, red chilli, turmeric, coriander powder, salt, garam masala, raw mango powder, asafoetida, coriander leaves
Health Benefits of Ash Gourd (Winter Melon)
Anu | March 23, 2013
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
Winter melons are summer-grown, war–like this Crenshaw–are commonly ready for harvest in late summer, autumn, or early winter.
Winter melons are summer-grown, warm-weather, tender plants that are commonly ready for harvest in late summer, autumn, or early winter.
So-called winter melons include casaba, charental, Crenshaw, honeydew, and Persian.
Winter melons require 110 frost-free days to reach harvest, more days than required by the summer melons, cantaloupe or muskmelon and the watermelon.
• Sow winter melons in the garden or set out transplants not earlier than 2 weeks after the average last frost date in spring when all danger of frost has passed.
• Start winter melon seed indoors 6 weeks before you plan to set plants into the garden. Winter melons require that nearly all of the growing season be warmer than 80°F.
Kinds of Winter Melons: Winter melons come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. These melons are long trailing annuals.
• Casaba: round or ovoid with wrinkled, rough yellow-rind and greenish-whitish flesh weighing about 5 pounds (2.2 kg). Greenish tinge at stem end. Smooth-textured, creamy flesh is juicy and subtly sweet and less fragrant than other melons.
• Charental: elongated, globe-shaped melon with smooth to slightly netted grey-green rind with slight ridges and a firm deep orange, sweet flesh.
• Crenshaw: smooth yellow-green skin with pale green or salmon flesh weighing about 6 pounds (2.7 kg). A hybrid cross between the casaba and cantaloupe. Flesh is extra sweet and juicy with a sweet spicy aroma. Softer than other melons.
• Honeydew: more ovoid than round with smooth rind that changes from pale green to creamy yellow as it ripens weighing about 3 pounds (1.3 kg); green, white, orange, or pink-orange flesh.
Melon Yield. Grow 2 winter melon plants for each household member.
Site. Plant winter melons in full sun. Melons grow best in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting. Melons prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Melon Planting Time. Sow winter melon seed in the garden or set out transplants 2 weeks after the last average frost date in spring. Start melon seed indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting seedlings into the garden; start seed in biodegradable peat or paper pots at least 4 inches in diameter that can be set wholly into the garden so as not to disturb roots. (This is recommended in short growing season regions where the soil warms slowly in spring.) Winter melon seed will germinate in soil as cool as 50°F, but seed will germinate in 10 days at 65°F. Winter melons grow best in air temperatures ranging from 45° to 95°F. If temperatures exceed 90°F for several days, flowers will drop without setting fruit. Winter melons require 110 frost-free days to reach harvest and will tolerate no frost. In cool or short-season regions, grow smaller varieties that come to harvest quickest. In frost-free, warm-winter regions plant, winter melons in winter for summer harvest.
Planting and Spacing Melons. Sow melon seed 1 inch deep. Sow 4 to 6 melons seeds in mounds or inverted hills 24 inches across; thin to the 2 or 3 strongest seedlings in each hill when seedlings have developed three or four true leaves (or set 2 or 3 transplants in each hill). Cut the thinned seedlings at soil level with scissors. Space mounds or inverted hills 4 to 6 feet apart. Mounds can range in height from a few inches to more than 12 inches tall; mounds will allow vines to run away down the slope. Use inverted hills where the weather and soil are very dry and plants will benefit from the collection of rain or irrigation water. Make an inverted hill by removing an inch or two of soil to from a circle 24 inches across; use this soil to make a rim around the circle. The rim also will protect young plants from heavy rains that might wash away the soil leaving shallow roots exposed.
Water and Feeding Melons. Melons require plentiful regular, even watering for quick growing. Keep the soil moist until fruit reaches full size then stop watering while the fruit ripens. Avoid watering plants overhead which can result in mildew. Prepare planting beds with aged compost; add aged manure to beds the autumn before planting. Side dress melons with compost or manure tea every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season.
Companion plants. Corn, radish, beans, nasturtium.
Melon Care. Pinch back flowers to permit just 4 fruits to form on each vine. Cultivate carefully around vines until they cover the ground and smother out competing weeds. Support melons on a low tripod or A-frame trellis to keep them off wet ground; use netting or a bag to support trellis- or fence-grown melons. For sprawling melons, place a board under each melon to keep it dry and off the ground.
Container Growing Melons. Melons are usually too large to grow in a container. Select a bush, dwarf- or mini-cultivar to grow in a container. Place a trellis or other support next to the plant to save space and increase yields. Choose a container at least 18 inches deep that can support a vining plant. In short growing season regions extend the season by starting melons indoors and moving them out when the weather has warmed.
Melon Pests. Aphids and cucumber beetles will attack melons. Hose away aphids with a blast of water or pinch out infested foliage. Hand pick and destroy cucumber beetles promptly; they can transmit cucumber bacterial wilt to melons.
Melon Diseases. Melons are susceptible to wilt, blight, mildew, and root rot. Plant disease resistant varieties. Keep the garden clean and free of debris where pests and disease may harbor. Remove and destroy disease infected plants immediately.
Bacterial wilt is spread by cucumber beetles. Bacterial wilt will cause melons to suddenly wilt and die. Control cucumber beetles as soon as they appear.
Powdery mildew, a fungus disease, can cause melon leaves to turn gray-white late in the season. Select disease resistant varieties. Improve air circulation by spacing plants properly.
Melon Harvest. Winter melons will be ready for harvest 110 days after sowing. When melons reach full size and stems turn brown they are ready for harvest. Leave melons on the vine until they are ripe. Ripe melons will slip easily off the stem; a half-ripe melon will require more pressure and may come off with half the stem attached. Ripe melons will have a sweet aroma at the stem end. Limit water for a week in advance of harvest to concentrate sweetness.
Varieties of Winter Melon:
• Casaba: Casaba (120 days); Golden Beauty; Marigold (88 days); Sungold Casaba (95 days); Tam Mayan (100 days).
• Charental: Alienor, Charmel (78 days), Pancha (80 days), Savor (75 days).
• Crenshaw: Early Hybrid Crenshaw (100 days).
• Persian: Galia Perfume (80 days); Haogen Israeli (85 days); Small Persian.
Storing and preserving. Melons will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, but sweetness and flavor may diminish. Melon also can be frozen or pickled.
Common name. Winter melon, casaba, charental, Crenshaw, honeydew, Persian
Botanical name. Cucumis melo
Origin. South Asia, tropical Africa
Also read How to Grow Melons for tips on growing cantaloupe and muskmelon.
More tips: How to Harvest and Store Melons.
Winter melons: A new crop for Michigan growers
Winter melon or Chinese wax gourd (Benincasa hispida) is used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine. It is used in soups and stir fries of various kinds from India through China. It can also be stored at room temperature for several months, hence the name “winter melon.” Although in a different genus, its growing requirements are similar to watermelon, a crop commonly grown in Michigan.
For this reason, eight varieties were planted at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 2016 (see table) to determine their commercial potential. The eight varieties had a range of size, shape and maturity (see table and photos 1-2).
Number of fruit and average fruit weight of eight winter melon varieties grown at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in 2016. Seed obtained from Evergreen Y. H. Enterprises, P.O. Box 17538, Anaheim, CA 92817.
Avg. fruit weight (lbs.)
No. of plants harvested
Fruit per plant
Hybrid Small Round
Southern Dark Skin
Hybrid Wonder Wax
Hybrid Thao Nuan
Hybrid Thai Small
Photo 2. Long Giant (left) and Southern Dark Skin (right) winter melons grown at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in 2016.
Having little experience in producing winter melons, it is difficult to determine maturity. As fruit matures, it generally develops a white, wax coating that easily rubs off onto hands and clothes. The fruit also have stiff hairs that irritate the skin, so it is best to handle them with gloves. Southern Dark Skin does not produce the wax, but does have the hairs. Large Oblong matured first, not only developing the waxy coating earlier but the plants also died, exposing fruit to the sun and potential sunburn (Photo 3). They were harvested in early September. Other selections were harvested mid-September through October. Harvest could possibly have been done earlier, but was delayed due to lack of experience with the fruit.
Photo 3. Long Oblong winter melon showing the white, waxy coating and senescing leaves indicative of maturity.
Hybrid Wonder Wax had extremely showy flowers (Photo 4) that were readily visible above the leaf canopy. The other entries had their flowers down under the leaf canopy. The exposed flowers may aid in attracting pollinators and increasing fruit set, but other entries did not seem to suffer decreased fruit set. Long Giant had a low fruit set, but is not well adapted to southwest Michigan anyway since it requires 150 or more days to maturity.
Photo 4. Hybrid Wonder Wax with its showy flowers above the leaf canopy.
An effort was made at marketing the winter melons through farmer’s markets and Chinese restaurants. Our experience found shape was not a concern, but size was. Most buyers wanted large fruit—15 pounds or higher, but they would take smaller melons down to 10 pounds. Melons were sold either by the melon or by the pound. Most melons of adequate size sold for either $4 or $5 a melon or $0.30 a pound.
Of the eight varieties evaluated, Large Round was the best performer in terms of number of fruit and fruit size. Other entries produced more fruit but it was smaller, which was not as desirable for buyers. Hybrid Small Round not only had small fruit, but also had fairly thin flesh. Of the two large fruit, Southern Dark Skin has more potential than Long Giant due to higher fruit set and shorter maturity time.
If you are a direct marketer looking for another crop to grow, Michigan State University Extension suggests winter melons certainly deserve your attention, especially if you have a significant Asian population.
How to grow winter melon （冬瓜）
Order Asian vegetable seeds at Visit our website for more gardening videos … Th…
Green in garden fresh on table. Welcome to asiangarden2table. Winter melon is another popular gourd in Asia.
Matured winter melon has very hard skin. It can withstand long distance shipping and months’ storage, which make it a great vegetable to balance market demandamong different areas and seasons.
After removing its skin, winter melon’s flesh is juicyand has very light taste. It is used in many soup, steaming and stew recipes.
Other than that, winter melon is also made into juice, tea, candy or snack. Like its sister fuzzy melon, winter melon is cooling, diuretic and detoxifying.
Winter melon like warm and hot weather. The best temperature is 75~85 degree. Temperature lower than 60 degree, it will not grow well.
At temperature between 85~95 degree, winter melon seeds germinate quickly. Winter melon’s growing cycle can vary from 4 months up to 6 monthsdepending on environment temperature and varieties.
So for cold area, indoor seed starting can help to maximize its growing season. Winter melon seeds have hard shell.
So you may need to germinate them first before you put in potting mix. I will have a video about different methods to germinate vegetable seeds later.
When winter melon grows 4~5 leaves, transplant the seedling into garden. Add a lot of organic fertilizer, turn the soil over and bury the fertilizer deep.
Row distance have to be wider than 4 ft. Plant distance is about 2~3 ft. When winter melon grows more than 1 ft long, you should start pruning work.
Winter melon has many different varieties, oblong or short round shapes, covered with white powder or smooth dark green skin, weigh from few pounds up to 60 pounds.
Winter melon is grown for its full size matured fruit, so the growing method is different from fuzzy melon.
Generally speaking, how many fruits a winter melon plant can produce varies from size to size. One plant can produce more than 3 fruits for melon size smaller than 10 pounds, while 2~3 fruits for 10~20 pounds, 1~2 fruits for more than 20 pounds.
Knowing your winter melon size, you can decidehow many vines to keep for fruiting when you prune the plant.
Single vine pruning is usually for winter melon bigger than 20 pounds. Remove all the side sprouts when winter melon vine grows.
Keep the vine on ground until female flower is seen, then direct the vine onto trellis. The first female flower is usually seen after the 18th leaf, then a female flower in every 5~7 leaves after that.
Some varieties produce the best fruits at the first 3 female flowers. Some varieties’ first few female flowers are weak and will wither before flowering.
So you should carefully drop the vine back on ground and let new female flower grow. Keep on doing this until you see a female flower successfully bloom.
Let the vine climb to the top of trellis, keep a second female flower and extra 2~3 leaves after, then remove the tip.
After pollinated, the first bloomed female flower has about 70% chance to grow into melon. If for some reason it cannot make it, the second flower will be a back-up.
For smaller winter melon, twin vines or triple vines pruning is recommended. When the plant grows about 1 ft, remove the tip and let side vines grow.
Keep 2 ~ 3 side vines, treat each vine as a single plant and prune it with method above. Keep at least 2 ft distance between vines on trellis.
Sometime there is more than one fruit on one vine, but at the end only one can grow bigger and the others will wither.
To focus the nutrients on the fruit, you should remove any side vines, flowers from fruiting vine.
Spread some 10-10-10 inorganic fertilizernear winter melon roots and gently mix with top soil. This will help the fruit grow bigger.
Trim off any yellow leaves to reduce bugs and disease problem. To secure winter melon fruit, tie the fruit stem up to trellis with a strong string.
In the next 2 months, winter melon will grow bigger and bigger. The skin gets harder. Some varieties develop a layer of white powder on the fruit, some lost the hair, become smooth and turn dark green.
By the time all the leaves almost turn yellow, you can harvest winter melon fruits. A well preserved winter melon can be kept up to half year, but a cut-opened one should be consumed in a week.
So for back yard gardener, I recommend you to grow small varieties that weigh less than 20 pounds.
I grow this giant winter melon just to show you in this video, it will be more than 40 pounds when it gets matured.
I actually don’t know what to do about it because it is too big. I have been very busy these days and am trying to keep up my videos.
I haven’t been able to check and reply comments on Youtube. I apologize for that. If you have any question, suggestion or request regarding to vegetable gardening and seeds, please visit my website and post in “community” section:asiangarden2table.
I hope this “community” become a place that we can talk, share and help. You can upload pictures in your post which is really helpful to explain your gardening questions.
Winter melon (Benincasa hispida, 冬瓜, dong gua) is also known as white gourd and winter gourd. The melon is shaped like a long squash and can grow as large as 80 centimeters (30 inches) in length. It has a chalky dark green (some time pistachio green) colored skin with a waxy feel. It has a thick white flesh that is water-rich and has a texture similar to that of the white part of a watermelon.
Mature winter melon is commonly used in Chinese cooking. The white flesh of the winter melon has a mild, refreshing, and grassy flavor, reminiscent of cucumber. It’s rarely consumed raw. The white flesh becomes soft and transparent once cooked.
Winter melon can be cooked in stews, soups, and stir fried and braised dishes. Because winter melon itself tastes very plain and its texture absorbs flavor very well, it is often cooked with pork, chicken and other strongly flavored ingredients to imbue in the melon a richer flavor. One of the most famous Chinese dishes is winter melon soup that is cooked with chicken or pork broth.
The winter melon needs to be skinned, seeded, and chopped before cooking.
To prepare winter melon
- Slice the skin off with a knife and discard it
- Separate the melon into 4 equal parts, and then further into 8 parts
- Cut off the very soft part with the seeds and discard it (it has a bad mouthfeel after cooked)
- Slice or cube each part of the melon into evenly sized pieces
Unwashed whole winter melon can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for up to 5 months. Once sliced, you should always wrap it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge, where it will last up to 1 week.
You can find winter melon at Chinese supermarkets. Due to its huge size, you’re more likely to find a portion of a melon than a whole melon.
Winter Melon Healing Properties and Recipe
Winter Melon for Summer Heat
By Vicky Chan of NourishU
Winter Melon/Wax Gourd/Tong Qwa
Winter melon is one of the most common, easy and fast growing fruit-vegetables in summer. Each plant can produce numerous large fruits on vines like watermelons up until late fall, and each melon can weigh up to 50 pounds. The reason why it is called winter melon is because it can be stored in a cool place without refrigeration and can last for months – even throughout the winter. But the best time to consume them is at harvest time. It is not just because of freshness, it is because this is when nature intended us to eat it; winter melon is for helping our body to counter summer heat and humidity. Also, people generally tend to consume a lot more cold fluid in summer and usually they are drinking much too fast for the body to process the water properly. Therefore water retention is common with people at the end of summer, especially those with slow metabolic function or people with weak kidney or digestive functions.
In Chinese medicine, winter melon is neutral and slightly cool in nature, sweet in taste and acts on our lungs, bladder, large intestine and small intestine. It helps to detoxify, clears out mucus and phlegm and promotes digestion. It is most suitable for people with kidney problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, over weight and with coronary heart disease. For people with weak and cold stomach/spleen constitution, weak with lack of yang energy or with loose stools, they should eat winter melon in moderation.
Chinese cuisine uses winter melon in soup, stew, congee and stir-fry. Making winter melon tea in the summer and especially during the hottest days is the most common home remedy people make to combat heat waves and to prevent sun stroke. The tea is highly recommended for children and outdoor workers who often stay outdoors. Making winter melon tea is very simple. Just cut melon into large cubes (with or without skin), cook with a large pot of water for about 30 minutes and add cane sugar to taste at the end. It can be served warm or cold with melon and good for keep in the fridge for up to a week. It is a very healthy summer beverage for the whole family.
Winter melon soups are most soothing and delicious. They are easy to make and can go with almost any combination of ingredients. You do not need to follow any specific recipe if it is not for specific treatment purposes. Winter melon goes well with most meat such as chicken, pork, duck or seafood such as crab meat or shrimps and vegetarian ingredients such as most beans, nuts, mushrooms and common food herbs such as lotus seeds, dried lily bulb and fox nuts, etc. You just need to cook up a soup base first and then add the melon to the cooking at the last 30 minutes. Here is one example recipe for your reference. You can also search our website for other therapeutic recipes using winter melon.
Winter Melon, Job’s Tears and Dried Mussel Soup
Cools internal heat, diuretic, lowers blood pressure, promotes yin and helps to lose weight.
INGREDIENTS (4 to 6 servings)
• Winter Melon 冬瓜 – 300gm
• Chicken breast – one piece
• Lean pork – one piece (optional)
• Job’s tears (yi yi ren) 薏以仁 – 30gm
• Dried scallop乾瑤柱 – 4
• Dried mussel 淡菜 – two spoonfuls
• Dried Shitake Mushroom 冬菇 – 6
• Dried longan fruit (long yan rou) 龍眼肉 – 8 to 10
• Ginger – 2 slices
- Wash chicken breast and pork, cut into a few pieces and put in boiling water to boil for a few minutes, remove and rinse.
- Soak dried mushroom until soft (about 30 minutes) and rinse. Soak other dried ingredients for a few minutes and rinse.
- Remove melon skin and seeds in the middle if any, wash melon and cut into large pieces and put aside.
- Put all ingredients (except melon) in a soup pot with about half pot of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer for 1.5 hours.
- Add winter melon, bring heat up to medium and let it cook for another 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
- Add a little salt to serve. Eat melon with soup.
Ingredient Name: Winter Melon
(also called Don Qua, White Gourd, Wax Gourd, or Ash Gourd)
Ingredient Name in Chinese: 冬瓜 (dōng guā), literally means “winter melon”
- Winter melon is a fast growing warm-climate Asian vine fruit that grows on the ground like a pumpkin does. It has a tough green skin on the outside but develops a white ashy wax over its skin as it matures. Hence, winter melon is also called a wax gourd or ash gourd.
- Winter melon is perhaps the largest cold season melon. It typically grows to at least 15 inches in diameter and weighing between 30 – 50 pounds each.
- Due to its large size, winter melon is typically sold in grocery stores in pre-cut bagged slices.
- Underneath the tough skin, winter melons have a thick white flesh that is mildly sweet, and a large seeded cavity.
- The water rich texture of winter melon flesh is similar to that of a watermelon, and becomes soft when cooked.
- Because of the wax that develops over its skin, winter melons have a long shelf life and can be kept for several months if left un-cut in a dry cool place.
Winter Melon Health Benefits and Uses:
winter melon cooked in many ways
- Winter melon is a long food staple in China, and it is used in a variety of ways including soups, braised stews, stir-frys, Chinese pastries, and candies.
- During Chinese New Year, winter melon is often dried, sweetened, and eaten as a traditional new year celebration candy.
- Ground winter melon paste is also popular in mooncakes (月餅) which are eaten during each year’s Mid-Autumn festival (中秋節)
- The “wife cake” or “sweet heart cake” (老婆餅) is a famous flaky thin-crusted Chinese pastry also made with winter melon.
- In Chinese medicine, the skin and flesh of the winter melon is considered a cooling food, known to release heat, detoxifying the body and ridding skin acne caused by excessive heat. Thus, this melon is very popular during the hot summer time.
- Although the skin maybe kept on during the cooking process (for its nutrients and cooling benefits), the melon skin is typically not eaten due to its chewy and tough texture.
- See a list of my soup recipes using winter melons.
Winter Melon Lotus Seed Shrimp Soup
Look for whole or pre-cut slices of winter melon in the produce section of an Asian supermarket, or local farmer’s market.
- If buying the pre-cut version, look for ones with a clean, firm, white flesh. Avoid ones where the flesh has turned yellowish. This indicates the gourd has been cut for some time and not fresh.
- Pre-cut winter melon slices sold in stores will not last as long as a whole (un-cut) melon, and should be used within 3 – 4 days if kept in the refrigerator.
- Sometimes, small whole winter melons can be found in Asian supermarkets. Choose ones that feel firm, dense, and heavy.
- If you have a garden and live in warm climate, you can check out these winter melon seeds and try growing your own.
- Wash the outside of the winter melon.
- If the skin will be used in the recipe, use a knife to scrape the ashy waxy skin in a sink of water to clean it more thoroughly. Not all of the ashy wax will be washed off, but you will remove some by using a knife.
- Since the winter melon is likely pre-cut when you buy it, just use a spoon to scoop out the seeds before cutting the gourd further for cooking.
- Wrap any unused portions with two layers of saran wrap and store in the refrigerator. A cut winter melon kept this way will be good for 3 – 4 more days.
How do you use your Winter Melon? Leave a comment below to share your ideas.
Resources and further reading: Specialty Produce, Ever Green Seeds.
9 Surprising Benefits of Winter Melon
Winter melon is one of the most highly prized vegetables in certain parts of the world due to its nutritional value and impressive health benefits, which include its ability to reduce chronic disease, improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, protect the heart, boost vision, and increase energy levels, among others.
What is Winter Melon?
While the name “melon” might make people believe that this is a fruit, winter melon is actually a large vine vegetable, with pale white flesh and a fuzzy interior. The sole member of the Benincasa genus, winter melon goes by many different names, including ash gourd, fuzzy gourd and tallow gourd. As an immature vegetable, there is a slight sweetness to the melon, but upon maturation, that sweetness dissipates into a more bland flavor, similar to a cucumber. Every part of the winter melon plant can be used for culinary or medicinal purposes, and it is used widely in Asia, particularly in China. These melons can grow up to 80 cm in length, and can be stored for many months without going bad, similar to many other gourds. It is commonly used in soups and stews, but can also be candied or included in curries. The juice of the vegetable can also be used in a variety of healthy beverages, while the sprouts and tendrils of the vine can be eaten as greens.
The nutritional value of winter melon is what makes it so important for human health, as the high concentration of vitamin C and vitamin B2 can have a wide variety of effects on the body. This is in addition to high levels of dietary fiber, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium and assorted other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts. Together, these nutrients make for a very powerful dietary supplement, which is why winter melon is so widely cultivated and respected throughout the world. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits that winter melon can provide.
Winter melons Photo Credit:
Health Benefits of Winter Melon
Health benefits of winter melon include the following:
A significant amount of research has linked vision problems to a deficiency in riboflavin, more commonly known as vitamin B2. Winter melon also has very high levels of vitamin B2, more than 11% of your daily requirement in a single serving. By increasing the amount of vitamin B2 in your system, you can reduce your chances of eye disorders, while the antioxidants found in winter melon help to reduce oxidative stress in the retina and macular degeneration.
Protects the Heart
With high levels of potassium and vitamin C, winter melon is a tried and true protector of cardiovascular health. Potassium functions as a vasodilator, meaning that it can help to lower blood pressure by releasing tension in the blood vessels and arteries, letting blood flow more freely. This makes it more difficult to develop atheroslcerosis, which can compound heart issues and increase your risk of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, vitamin C has been directly linked to reduced chances of a stroke.
With more than 19% of your daily vitamin C requirements in a single serving, winter melon is a powerful immune system booster. Vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells, and also acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals and prevent the mutation of health cells. Winter melon also boasts a decent amount of zinc, which is another critical component to immune system health.
Stimulates Growth & Development
Most people only think of vitamin C as an immune system booster, but in fact, vitamin C performs a number of key functions in the body. Perhaps most importantly, it is a component in the production of collagen, which is one of the basic building blocks of cells, tissues, muscles, bones and blood vessels. If you are still in developmental stages of your life, or recovering from an injury/illness, you want high levels of vitamin C to provide raw materials for growth and repair. Winter melon delivers that vitamin C in a major way!
Helps in Digestion
Dietary fiber is an important part of any healthy diet, as it can optimize digestion and prevent many unfortunate gastrointestinal issues, including constipation, bloating, cramping, hemorrhoids, and general stomach upset. Dietary fiber can also improve the nutrient uptake efficiency of the gut, along with reducing cholesterol levels in the cardiovascular system!
Increases Energy Levels
Taking in the right nutrients is one thing, but being able to properly use them is another. Vitamin B2 plays an important part in human metabolism, ensuring that the nutrients are converted into usable energy. Along with its many other impacts on hormonal balance and health, the high level of vitamin B2 found in winter melon keeps us functioning and using nutrients efficiently!
Improves Cognitive Function
The significant level of iron found in winter melon makes it an ideal solution for increasing circulation to extremities of the body. Iron is a key component in the production of red blood cells, so when you have more iron, you have better circulation of fresh, healthy and oxygenated blood. This means that winter melon can not only protect against the symptoms of anemia, but also ensure proper blood flow to the brain, which can increase concentration, focus and memory.
Detoxifies the Body
In traditional medicine, winter melon is often used as a diuretic, which can help to detoxify the body. Urination eliminates excess toxins, fats, salts and water from the body, so any vegetable that can induce that detoxification will help your liver and kidney perform at optimal levels.
Helps in Weight Loss
Winter melon is often praised as a weight loss tool, because it is high in fiber and relatively low in calories. This popular vegetable will make you feel full, thus reducing between-meal snacking and overeating, without pushing your calorie intake for the day over certain limits. The rich blend of minerals and nutrients also promotes muscle growth and a stronger metabolism, thereby compounding the weight loss effects.