Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sponge or Vegetable?


One of my recent first-time purchases was the ridged gourd (Luffa acutangula), a vegetable also known as angled loofah, Chinese okra, tori, and patola. Ridged gourds have soft, edible skin when young, taste somewhat like zucchini, and are popular in Asia. In California, a few of the farmers of Asian descent sell them at the Farmers' Market.

I used a south Indian recipe as a guide to cook the gourd, braising it with some grated coconut, then topping with a spice, chili and curry leaf infused oil. Perhaps the gourd was too old, or perhaps I didn't trim it properly, but in my finished dish half of the pieces were so fibrous that I could not eat them. I understood why one of the names of this vegetable is angled loofah! The actual loofah sponge, however, comes from the Luffa cylindrica gourd. The Hinata Diaries has a funny story about a trip to Egypt that includes a hungry tourist, a language barrier, and a cart of loofah gourds.

Back when I regularly wrote scientific papers for journals and conferences, my co-authors and I would always seem to include a clause at the end of the article saying "more research is needed." But with the ridged gourd, I don't feel that the clause is needed, as the flavor of the non-loofah-esque pieces which was not good enough to make it worth the gamble to buy this vegetable and possibly find much of it to be inedible.



Indexed under Ingredients
Technorati tags: vegetarian : Food


6 comments:

Jayashree said...

Sorry your attempts to use this vegetable haven't been successful. It might have been an old ridge gourd.

Whenever I buy this vegetable (young, tender ones), I make two dishes out of it.
1. Chutney with the skin
2. Dal with the flesh inside.


Most of my recipes are similar to Indira of Mahanandi. I grind the chutney into paste to avoid getting any fibrous pieces. http://www.nandyala.org/mahanandi/archives/category/indian-vegetables/beera-kaayaridege-gourd

I hope you'll try the vegetable again!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I do hope you give this veggie a second chance! When young and fresh, it is just the tastiest vegetable with a complete melt-in-the-mouth feel. I'm sorry you ended up with an old fibrous specimen!

Catherine said...

Marc, you find all the fascinating vegetables! I've never even seen these, but now I know what to look for if I ever see them.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

Marc,

You should make soup with this...it's very tasty and supposedly great for the health (well, that's Chinese belief!).

Manisha said...

Now this is a vegetable that we don't care for at all! I grew up hating it but when I saw all the great looking recipes on Indian food blogs, I thought I'd give it a second chance. I bought the freshest and most tender ridge gourd and while the curries tasted great, we didn't care much for the ridge gourd itself and decided to put it on the only-if-there-is-nothing-else list.

Anonymous said...

This veggie deserves a second chance... but make sure u buy a tender one & also test for its taste before cooking it by popping a small bit in ur mouth & chewing it... some of it might taste bitter...