When it comes to Asian cuisine, the mild-tasting fruit known as winter melon is a popular ingredient, particularly in Chinese and Indian dishes. Soups, desserts, and beverages all use it. Asia and South Florida are ideal habitats for this species. Melons are easy to carry and store once they’ve been plucked. For the most part, they are sold in Asian markets where demand is great.
What Is Winter Melon?
Benincasa hispida, also known as ash gourd, wax gourd, white gourd, and winter gourd, is a type of winter melon. In the Cucurbitaceae (Cucurbitaceae), which contains cucumbers, melons and zucchinis, as well as pumpkins and other squash, it belongs.
The fruit’s term “seasonal” stems from the fact that it may be preserved for three to four months and eaten in the winter, even though it is harvested in the summer and autumn. Immature melon also has fine hairs, which some compare to snow because of their fuzziness. It sheds its hair as it ages and develops a waxy coating.
They can reach more than one foot in length and weigh more than 40 pounds when they’re ripe. The rectangular shape and dark green, waxy skin give it the appearance of a huge watermelon, but others are rounder in shape. In contrast to a watermelon, the flesh and seeds are white, it has a bland taste, and it is inedible when fresh. Winter melon can be steamed, simmered, or even parboiled, but be careful not to overcook it, since it can become mushy if overcooked. Winter melon can be purchased pre-sliced and packaged in the produce section, making them more convenient and cost-effective.
Buying, Cooking, and Recipes
Chinese winter melons go by various names: White gourd, Winter gourd, Wax gourd, Sufed Kaddu, Chinese preserving melon, Ash gourd, Tallow gourd, etc. It comes from the gourd family named ‘The Cucurbitaceae.’ It originated from south and southeast Asia and is now cultivated pretty much all around. The wax gourd plant is an annual plant.
The vegetable itself grows from a sizeable Yellow flower and then develops the shape of a watermelon when mature. A fun fact is that while immature winter melons are considered fruits, mature ones are considered vegetables and are consumed as so.
The color of its skin is best described as Pistachio color. And the texture is somewhat waxy, which gives birth to one of its names, ‘Wax gourd’. And according to some experts, the theory behind the name ‘Winter melon’ is that the waxy texture of its skin reminds people of snow. They can range up to 80 centimeters in length and can weigh up to 40 pounds.
Chinese winter melon uses:
There are varieties of different uses of Chinese winter melons. But the most common use of it is to make soup with it. Other uses of it include being stir-fried, baked, consumed like desserts, candied, pickled, or simply cut raw and added in a salad.
The edible part is the white flesh that you will see once you peel the skin off. The white flesh often resembles the white parts of a normal watermelon. It has a very mild taste, and oftentimes, that taste resembles the taste of cucumbers.
What you need to do with this part depends on what you plan to make out of it. But keep in mind that the longer you cook it, the softer it gets. Since they absorb the flavors of the spices you add with them, they tend to taste the best when they are stir-fried or in a soup.
But sometimes for appearance purposes, the outer layer of the winter melon, including its skin, is utilized as a pot for its soup.
What Does Chinese Winter Melon Taste Like?
Unlike the immature fruit, mature winter melon has a mellow flavor. Cucumber-like in flavor, with an almost grassy aftertaste, is a common comparison. Winter melon is nearly comparable to watermelon’s white rind if you’ve ever eaten it. As a result, when winter melon is unavailable, watermelon rind is sometimes substituted.
Nutritional value of Chinese winter melon:
Chinese winter melons provide a range of nutritional values and health benefits. While winter melons are low in fat and calories, they are a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), and zinc (low amount), thus working as antioxidants in your body and keeping you protected from free radicals and cell damage.
Their Vitamin C properties help with anti-aging and maintaining healthy skin. Plus, their seeds help reduce melanin production in the body, which improves the appearance of the skin. Not to mention, these melons are highly alkaline and contain about 96% water. Their water contents help promote weight loss and maintain a healthy weight.
That being said, Chinese medication considers them to be effective for anti-inflammation as well as against hypertension.
But there is more. These Chinese winter melons are rich in fiber that help with digestion and thus improve gut health in the long run. The Riboflavin properties also help to improve heart and eye health. It also helps reduce the symptoms of migraines.
These are the basics one needs to know about Chinese winter melons. Keep in mind that no matter how you decide to consume them, due to their wide range of nutritional values, they will provide health benefits in one way or another.
Where to Buy Winter Melon
Winter melon is available all year round in Asian supermarkets. While the winter melon is in season, whole ones may be obtained. As a result, it’s easier to find this fruit pre-cut. The fruit should be firm and free of blemishes, whether it is whole or cut. Winter melon is a simple plant to grow in a home garden because the seeds are widely available and the plants don’t require much attention. This type of annual requires a lot of space to develop and does best in climates where the temperature stays consistently around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where to store chinese winter melon?
As long as it is kept in a cold environment, a whole winter melon can last for months or even one year. Melon can be stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator for a few days after it has been cut. Pickling winter melon is another way to preserve it.
Fuzzy Melon vs. Winter Melon: Who Wins?
The juvenile winter melon is frequently referred to as “fuzzy melon” because of its fuzzy appearance. However, in Chinese cuisine, the fuzzy melon, also known as mo gwa or mo qua, is a real fruit. The fuzzy melon is related to the winter melon, although it looks more like a hairy zucchini and is much smaller.
In many recipes, winter melon and fuzzy melon are interchangeable. When cooked in soups and stir-fries, the fuzzy melon has a mild flavor that absorbs the flavor of other ingredients.