- 2 ridge gourds about 250 gms, skinned and chopped into slices about 1 inch wide.
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 tomato , chopped fine
- 1 green chilli , slit and deseeded
- Pinch of haldi / turmeric
Make a fine paste of the following ingredients with a mortar and pestle.
- 1/4 tsp rai / mustard seed
- 1/4 tsp jeera / cumin seed
- 2 tsps til / sesame seeds
- 1 dry red chilli
- 4 cloves garlic
With a potato peeler lightly skin the gourd of all hard veins. Not too much.Slice into fairly thick pieces. Heat the oil and fry the onion till brown and soft. Add the green chilli and fry for another minute or two. Add the tomato and turmeric and cook till tomato becomes a pulp. Add the paste and fry well till the oil separates from the mixture. Pop in the turai with a sprinkle of water. Cover tightly and cook till soft. If you need to, add a few tablespoons of water and mix well to make a very slight bit of gravy. Finish with a sprinkle of salt to taste.
Ridge Gourd is also known as Angular Luffa or Chinese okra in English. Used more often for crafts in the west than as a vegetable it has actually got a subtle flavour when picked young , a taste which is lacking in the more common and fibrous Luffa aegyptiaca from which scrubbers and sponges are made. Ridge gourd grows all across India in the Gangetic plain, the North East and many other parts, in areas where the average temperature ranges between 28-34 C. It thrives in high temperatures. Many farmers with small holdings plant this vegetable in a three tier system whereby their land yields much more than usual. With a ground crop of green gram or groundnut, a second tier of sesame and a top level crop of gourd which is cultivated on a trellis this inter cropping is also good for the soil. Improved varieties of ridge gourd have been developed in Kerala, which yield many more fruit , and the cultivation of which are likely to benefit the small farmer as they can be grown in the rice fallows in summer.
Ridge gourd is propagated through open pollination. So there is a saying around here that the fruits of the gourd must be picked in the morning since their flowers open in the evening. Meaning any movement in the fields in the evening would be likely to disturb the pollinators, the bees and other insects hovering around the flowers.
Once they are harvested, though, care needs to be taken as ridge gourd are not as hardy as they look. Too much heat makes the plant lose water and weight , making the peel tough while chilling makes it lose acids and sugars, so the fridge is not a good place to store it either. Ideally it should be kept in a cool humid place. The monsoon is, therefore, a good time to buy ridge gourd as they are less likely to be tough.
Some people say that the peeled skin can be made into a chutney after cooking in salted water and thorough washing . The peels are then ground into a paste with the addition of green chillies, salt,tamarind, coriander and a pinch of sugar.I have never tried this myself but do know that the practice of using every bit of what is edible in a vegetable, is slowly disappearing.
Nalinima, my inspiration for this blog, used to make the most amazing tasty dishes from skinned pea pods, from cauliflower leaves and stems, and from what would normally be considered waste from all sorts of vegetables. At the age of 80 she would sit in the kitchen with her mother, aged 98 , peeling and cutting vegetables companionably on the old curved vegetable slicer, a rather lethal looking instrument, while discussing their friend R.K.Laxman's take on the shenanigans of the latest politicians in his daily cartoons.
Recent scientific studies seem to suggest that cooking the ridge gourds adds to the antioxidants already present to make it a good source of beta carotene and other vitamins. It has always been part of the Indian diet as it is a cucurbit vegetable known since antiquity, though it may not be as popular amongst the younger generation.
Ridge gourds have been found to have many genetic variations and point out the rich bio diversity that exists in India. I am constantly amazed at the range of vegetables available in different markets, many of which are not commonly used in Maharashtrian cuisine but , which form a staple in the diet of people from other Indian cultures.We cannot, however, take bio diversity for granted. By sharing our old traditional recipes we learn to use, popularize and encourage the cultivation of several vegetables which are indigenous, easier to grow, do not require expensive fertilisers and pesticides and do not deplete our soil of valuable nutrients.