What is a snake gourd?
The snake gourd is an elongated, green, narrow fruit native to India. Its snake-like, coiled appearance results in its name. Because of the several nutrients it has, the fruit is eaten as a vegetable mostly in its unripe form.
- In Spanish: Calabaza de serpiente
- In French: Gourde de serpent
- In Latin: Anguis Cucurbita
- In Hindi: Chichinda
- In Gujarati: Sāpanī tumbaḍī kē tumbaḍuṁ
- In Telegu: Dōsa
Also known as Chinese Cucumber, these slender gourds have a waxy exterior, striped with a lighter shade of green or even white.
Mostly eaten in the raw form, the ripe ones turn orange while the matured gourds are red. Apart from the vegetable, other edible parts include the leaves, shoots, and tendrils.
The fruits contain ovoid, flat and soft seeds that become larger and hard once ripe, much like other gourds.
They are often known to grow to a height of about 150 cm and a thickness of 8 cm.
The thick and juicy flesh of snake gourd tastes like the typical cucumber. However, on ripening, it turns considerably bitter.
Varieties of snake gourd
- White Glory
- India Short
- Extra Long Dancer
- Hybrid Snaky
Given below is the nutritional information for 100 grams snake gourd:
Health benefits of snake gourd: What is it good for
Consumption of snake gourd is beneficial for those suffering from various cardiac problems such as palpitation, pain and blood pressure. Its potassium content improves circulation, thereby relieving the pressure on the cardiovascular system.
The low calorie vegetable with minimum sugar content and a low glycemic index is a healthy dietary choice for those who have Type 2 diabetes, lessening the effects of the condition.
Its high fiber content reduces bloating, also improving the body’s nutrient absorption capacity, consequently aiding the digestive process.
Aids in detoxification
Due to its diuretic properties, snake gourd is beneficial in flushing toxins from the body. It helps to enhance liver function, increases the creation of bodily fluids and consequently facilitates the expulsion of toxins by way of urination. Including it in your daily diet assists in promoting healthy functioning of the bladder as well as kidneys.
Healthy hair and skin
Due to its high vitamin, mineral, moisture and antioxidant content, snake gourd promotes healthy hair, scalp, and skin by keeping it hydrated.
The fat-free nutritious green vegetable with its high moisture content is a good dietary option to keep one’s weight in check.
The combination of Vitamin C, antioxidant carotenes, and antibiotic properties along with a plethora of other nutrients like manganese, zinc, folate, and magnesium present in the vegetable significantly contribute to strengthening the immune system and boosting one’s overall health.
Can snake gourd be bad for you?
While there are no ill-effects of snake gourd as such, over consumption of the same may lead to stomach problems alongside a few other minor issues.
While small quantities of the low-calorie vegetable will prove beneficial for both the mother and the fetus, care must be taken not to consume high amounts of snake guard so as to avoid any damage to the fetus.
What is snake gourd used for
- Because of its nutritional benefits and soothing taste, the vegetable is used in various curry preparations.
- Snake gourd alongside celery and lentils makes for an essential ingredient in several traditional Indian soups or stew preparations like kootu.
- Chopped snake gourd along with capsicum and tomato makes for a nutritional salad dish.
- Due to their cucumber-like taste and texture, they are also made into pickles.
- The vegetable is stir-fried with urad dal ( black gram lentils), red chilies and curry leaves to make traditional Indian dishes like snake gourd poriyal.
- Because of its soft texture, it is sauteed into a paste ( chutney) with other ingredients like lentils, sesame and cumin seeds to prepare thogayal, a South Indian dish.
- Fritters prepared by dipping sliced snake gourd into a paste of besan ( gram flour) and rice flour accounts for a mouth-watering snack.
- The red pulp of ripe snake gourd is an alternative for tomato in many dishes.
- Baked or sauteed snake gourd serves as a tasty side dish.
- Because of its hepatoprotective properties, an infusion of snake gourd leaves and coriander seeds act as an effect home remedy in fighting jaundice since it is said to lower the bilirubin levels.
- External application of snake gourd sap helps in treating dandruff and alopecia.
- The concoction made from snake gourd leaves, honey, and coriander, acts as a febrifuge as it has a cooling effect helping to reduce bilious or intestinal fever.
- The juice of its leaves acts as a mild laxative, thereby cleansing the bowels and eliminating constipation. It also induces vomiting to purge one’s stomach in case of poisoning.
- When suffering from a severe cough and cold, the snake gourd extract may be used as an expectorant, helping to dissolve pus as well as phlegm in the respiratory tract.
How to prepare and cook snake gourd
How to cut and slice
- Wash the snake gourd thoroughly
- Peel the skin off
- Use a knife to chop half a centimeter off the gourd from either end to get rid of the inedible tips
- For chopping or dicing, place it horizontally and cut into two halves for convenience. Take one-half of the gourd and place it vertically on the board, slice it lengthwise into two long halves and remove the seeds. Further half these long strips for smaller pieces. Place it horizontally and cut it into approximately 1cm wide pieces. Take the other halves and repeat.
- For thin round discs, place the entire gourd horizontally and start cutting finely from one edge to get slices of the desired thickness.
How to prepare
One of the best ways to cook snake gourd is to pan fry it for 60-90 seconds with spices like cumin, turmeric, and salt. Be careful not to overcook it, as it may strip the vegetable of its many nutrients.
- Stuffed snake gourd
- Snake gourd salad with carrots and green chilies
- Snake gourd sabzi made with potato
- Snake gourd and egg curry
- Snake gourd and chicken soup
- Snake gourd thoran
How to store
Pack your fresh gourds in an airtight container or a plastic bag and store it in a cool and dry place. In the summer months, it is preferable to store it in the crisper of your fridge in a loose bundle.
Where to buy
Snake gourds are easily available in Asian grocery shops mostly between April and October, when they are in season. You can also buy them online.
How to pick fresh snake gourds
Pick snake gourds that are firm, with its color ranging from light to dark green. Do not buy them if they seem puffy or dented and moist, or have started to turn yellow and wrinkly on the tips.
While zucchini and summer squash are the best substitutes for snake gourd owing to the similarity in taste and texture, ridge gourd, bottle gourd and raw pumpkin may also serve as an alternative.
- Snake gourds that reach full maturity are so hard that they are made into didgeridoos, which are traditional musical instruments of Australia.
- Apparently, the longest snake gourd ever recorded, measuring 1.88 meters, was grown by a resident of Oman.
- Snake gourds can grow to be 200 cm long, turning dark red at maturity.
- by Ujjaini Ganguly
- March 11th 2017