Most gourds are not edible and the interior gourd dust can actually be quite toxic. I work with dried gourds so I know this to be true and make sure I work in a ventilated area and take precaution with the seeds and fibrous insides.
But, there are a few edible gourds and they are considered to be a culinary delight. Listed below are three of the larger edible gourds. I have not included the Luffa gourd and its relatives
Cucuzzi or Italian Edible Gourd is probably the most well known edible gourd. This was one of the first gourds I grew in the garden. It will grow up to three feet but is best picked for eating at one foot. You can cook and serve it like you would a summer squash or eggplant. This is considered to be a tasty Italian heirloom.
It will look like a long thick green bean and grows on long productive vines. For some reason the insects don’t seem to bother this plant as much as others. I think the plant emits a bit of a strong smell that repels insects.
I have had a lot of success growing the Cuccuzi and have tried it as an edible fruit and also let it dry like a gourd and used it for crafting purposes.
The first time I grew this I had no idea what to expect and actually scared myself in the garden when I looked down and saw what looked to be a huge green snake hiding in the vines!
The Serpente Di Sicila gourd is a lot like the Cuccuzi. It is very long and slender and a bright light green color. These should also be picked when they are small and tender. These have a very rich flavor and are served steamed, sautéed, or stuffed and baked. These are very popular sellers at Asian and specialty markets.
I have not grown this gourd before so I do not have first hand experience with its growing habits but I hear it grows like the Cucuzzi.
Thai Bottle gourds are gourds that are shaped like a bottle. They are best used when they are four to six inches if you plan to eat them. They are stir-fried, curried, boiled or used in a soup.
The seeds in this gourd can be used to make a vegetable curd that is somewhat similar to Soybean tofu.
Cucuzzi or Italian Edible Gourd recipe
Choose a firm, well-shaped cucuzzi that is free of soft spots and yellowing.
To Fry: Peel the squash and cut into French fry potato shapes. Dip into mixture of beaten egg and milk and roll in mixture of breadcrumbs and flour. Fry until golden brown. Be careful not to over cook.
To Stew: Peel approximately 2 pounds of cucuzzi squash and dice into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in an oiled skillet and combine small chopped onions and 1 clove chopped garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add 15 ounces of canned stewed tomatoes and summer for four minutes. Add the Cucuzzi squash and cook till tender (approximately 30 min). Season to taste. Serve plain over thin spaghetti.
Gourd trivia: A curvy mini gourd called Hu Lu in Mandarin usually shows up in the market during Chinese New Year. It is considered a fruit and is one of the essential items during the festive season. Hu Lu is usually wrapped around in a red-color paper ribbon that signifies luck and prosperity and used mostly as a ceremonial offering to the god.
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