Winter Melon: The Savory Fruit

Winter melon goes by many names. Whether called wax gourd, ash gourd, winter gourd, or winter melon, this unique piece of produce can be cooked in a multitude of ways that are atypical for melons. Winter melon is enjoyed throughout much of Asia where it is often used in savory applications.

What Does Winter Melon Look Like?

Winter melons have green or white exteriors depending on their growing stage and the region in which they grow; in India, most winter melons have rough white exteriors, whereas in Southeast Asia winter melons have smooth exteriors. When fully matured, winter melons can grow more than two feet in length. Like many melons, winter melons have large green leaves and large yellow flowers. 

Winter Melon: Sweet and Savory

When winter melons are young, they have thick white flesh that is sweet in flavor with a thin skin. As the melon matures it develops a thick, waxy coating on the outside which helps to preserve it for months and it begins to lose some of its sweet flavor, taking on a more neutral taste akin to cucumber.

Image Credit: Flickr user Plant pests and diseases ( CC0 1.0 )

 Winter melon is a unique ingredient in that it is often used in savory dishes. Winter melon makes an appearance in savory soups and stews. In Cambodia and Vietnam, winter melon is often found in pork-based soups. In China, you may find winter melon stir fried with pork. And in Southern India, winter melon is chopped and added to yogurt based curries. 

Winter melon can be used for sweet dishes too. In the Philippines and in China winter melon is often candied or used to fill sweet pastries. Winter melon is also used in the sweet beverage known as wax gourd punch, which can be found in Southeast Asia. 

Cooking with Winter Melon

If you want to use winter melon for sweet applications, we recommend using it while it is immature (it would taste great in our Melon and Corn Salad with Burrata and Serrano Ham in place of the cantaloupe). If you want to use it for savory applications, look for aged melons. Try adding chopped pieces of winter melon into curries or stir fries; the neutral-tasting melon will absorb the rich flavors in the curry and stir fry sauce. Look for winter melons at your local Chinese, Vietnamese, Philippino, or Indian market.  

Feature Image: 仔 条 from Pixabay 

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