The hairy gourd is called in Chinese chi quam, moa qua, moa gua and also known as hairy melon, hairy cucumber, fuzzy gourd, fuzzy squash, Chinese preserving melon, or small winter melon.
In the United States, it’s also called a wax gourd or an ash gourd, and it’s currently very popular for its massive health benefits and digestive aid. Growing this exotic gourd at home is easy. This guide will teach you how.
We will also share everything you need to know about the health benefits of the hairy gourd with you.
Despite lots of recent news coverage, there are several facts many people don’t know about this Southeast Asian vegetable.
We will dispel the myths for you and tell you how to grow fuzzy melons at home.
- What Is Hairy Gourd?
- How To Grow Hairy Gourd
- Pests and Diseases Common to Hairy Gourd Plants
- The Hairy Gourd in Eastern Medicine
What Is Hairy Gourd?
Even though people all over the world have different names for Benincasa hispida, they all refer to a trailing vine that produces small to medium-sized fruit. The gourds may be round or oblong and are typically light green in color. The ripe gourds will have a thin, whitish fuzz on the skin, which is where the numerous names come from.
No matter what you call a hairy gourd, the health benefits are well-documented and scientifically proven. They have been in use by traditional practitioners of Eastern medicine for hundreds of years. The various health aspects of the hairy gourd have recently caught on in the US with consumers who suffer from digestive problems.
The hairy gourd is also low in calories, making it a desirable alternative for people looking for low-carb dietary options.
How To Grow Hairy Gourd
Despite its winter-themed names, the hairy gourd is a summer gourd that grows well in hot environments. Because it is a trailing variety, gardeners will need to plan on providing plenty of room for its long vines. In India and other parts of Asia, the gourd is typically grown beneath a trellis that allows the developing fruit to hang. This prevents damage from the ground and can increase crop production while keeping the long vines under control.
Germinating Hairy Gourd Seeds
Hairy gourd plants grow best from seed. Gardeners can start seeds indoors two to three weeks before the last frost. Hairy gourds grow best when soil temperatures are above 65 degrees F, so the use of a greenhouse or a germinating heat mat will help increase germination rates. Plant germinating seeds in fertile, well-draining potting soil and provide fertilizer to young plants for best results.
Growing Hairy Gourd in Your Garden
Hairy gourd plants produce long vines that trail along the ground. Vines can be several feet long if left to grow unattended. Hairy gourd vines will not readily climb structures, so a low trellis where the gardener can drape the growing vines will help prevent the plant from growing out of control. It also makes harvesting the fruit easier.
The hairy melon prefers neutral soil and benefits from periodic fertilizing with phosphate, potash, and nitrogen. Sandy soil may require several applications of fertilizer throughout the growing season to ensure healthy plant growth and robust fruit production.
Watering requirements are simple for the hairy gourd. The plants prefer well-draining soil and should never be grown in wet soil. Weekly watering is all that should be required except in the hottest conditions. Avoid overwatering hairy melon plants to reduce the likelihood of bacterial and fungal infections.
Harvesting Hairy Gourds
Typically within 30 to 40 days of planting, trailing vines will develop large yellow flowers. It takes between five and eight weeks for the fruit to develop. Immature hairy gourds will be darker in color and have white fuzz all over the skin. As the fruit reaches ripeness, the fuzz will become like ash. This indicates the gourd is ready for harvest.
Many people prefer to harvest the immature gourds when they are a little larger than a softball. The fruit of the gourd at this stage is reminiscent of cucumber and will have a slightly bitter flavor. As the fruit matures, the bitter flavor may increase.
Pests and Diseases Common to Hairy Gourd Plants
Hairy gourd plants are susceptible to numerous pests and diseases. Generally, any pest or disease that affects melons, squash, cucumbers, or gourds will also be a risk factor for gardeners growing hairy gourds. In some cases, early detection of a problem can help you to treat the plant before it’s too late.
The most common insects that affect hairy gourd plants are cucumber beetles and aphids. Beetles tend to eat the leaves and flowers, while aphids suck the sap from the plant and vines. Other common pests include spider mites, squash bugs, and leaf-footed beetles. Nematodes in the soil can also present problems when populations are out of control.
Excessive moisture tends to lead to most disease problems with hairy gourd plants.
Downy mildew is a common disease found in many hairy melon plots. Downy mildew tends to occur most frequently in wet areas when water is allowed to accumulate on leaves. Leaf spot fungus and a wide range of blight are also common.
Treating Infected Hairy Gourd Plants
The best treatment for hairy gourd plants is prevention. Most of the common problems arise from poor soil conditions, including too much water and not enough drainage. Water that is allowed to set on leaves and stems frequently causes problems.
Gardeners who use drip irrigation and closely monitor watering will have few pests and diseases.
When insects are attacking hairy gourd plants, there are several commercial insecticides that may be useful. A homemade mixture of neem oil, water, and dish soap can be effective at treating aphids, spider mites, and other insects.
Preventing overwatering is the best way to stop fungal and bacterial infections.
Unfortunately, once the symptoms of infection are visible, it is likely too late to save the plant. It is best to remove the infected plant carefully to prevent spores from transferring to other plants. The soil will need to be treated to prevent the recurrence of fungal and bacterial ailments.
The Hairy Gourd in Eastern Medicine
Over several centuries, the hairy gourd has been used in traditional Eastern and Ayurveda medicine to treat a broad range of maladies. The cooked flesh of the hairy gourd is said to improve digestive function, help reduce symptoms of asthma and other lung problems, and is often used to treat tapeworms. Hairy melon is used as a diuretic to aid in flushing toxins from the body naturally.
The gourd is usually peeled, then cubs or julienned before being sauteed in a wok with dried shrimp and rice noodles. Because of the mild flavor, hairy gourd is usually prepared with salty, flavorful ingredients that compliment the gourd. It is high in fiber and low in calories and carbohydrates, so it is a great ingredient for people trying to eat less food.
Scientific Evidence of the Health Benefits of Hairy Gourd
Scientific testing has proven that at least some of the claimed health benefits of hairy gourd do exist.
Primarily, researchers identified that numerous digestive benefits can be found through the use of hairy gourd extracts.
Hairy gourd was demonstrated to reduce ulcers from developing in rats. It is believed that the antimicrobial properties of the hairy gourd reduce the growth of bacteria that cause ulcers.
Extracts from the hairy gourd have proven to be effective at reducing inflammation, a leading cause of many chronic ailments. The antimicrobial properties of hairy gourd are most likely responsible for reducing inflammation.
3. Type-2 Diabetes
The high fiber content and low carbohydrates present in hairy gourd may reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Hairy gourd has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and reduce insulin in mice, but human studies have not clearly demonstrated any effect.
- The Hairy gourd is known by many names all over the world.
- Hairy gourds have been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
- Modern science has confirmed some of the claimed benefits.
- Hairy gourds can be grown in almost any soil type.
- Numerous pests and diseases can impact the growth of hairy gourd plants and fruit.
- Overwatering is the most common cause of problems with the hairy gourd.
The hairy gourd has almost as many health benefits as its names, and it’s also a very easy plant to grow in your garden. A trellis is often used to keep the fruit from lying on the ground, as the hairy gourd is not a good climber.
The hairy gourd makes an excellent option for gardeners who are looking for a versatile, healthy option. Its dietary benefits are significant. With the explosion of Keto diets and other low carb options, the hairy gourd increases in popularity.
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