Long Melon, Lauki, Doodhi, or the Bottle Gourd species produces fruit in a range of sizes and shapes, from long and thin, straight or curved to bottle shaped. But always the skin is smooth, tough and most commonly light green. When buying it is good to select the younger ones as they will be more tender and sweeter.
It is believed that this melon floated from Africa, its native home, to South America where it was growing by 7,000 BCE. Later varieties made their way to India and Asia where they have been grown, eaten, dried and used as receptacles to transport water, hold herbs, or as a cooking vessel.
Lauki has white flesh with a fine grained texture and a mild flavour. It needs to be peeled before use, but even when peeled, it holds its shape well when cooked. The Chinese believe it is a diuretic with cooling properties.
In India, Lauki is used for subzi, kofkas and steamed mixtures of grated melon, flours and spices. It is also used to make a sweet Halwa dessert. The skin is used in making a dry spicy chutney preparation.
The Chinese use it for soups and stir fries. In the West it can be baked whole, perhaps stuffed with rice and vegetables.
In Italian cuisine, it is known as cucuzza. In the Middle East, traditionally the young fruits are boiled, whilst the mature fruits were eaten as dessert. The tender young gourd is cooked as a summer squash. It is also believed that this plant was consumed by Prophet Jonah when he was spitted out by the Whale.
In the West it is often cooked halved and stuffed with rice and vegetables. . It can be steamed, grilled, fried, baked and sauteed, as well as stuffed.
If the seeds are tender, you can eat them, but they start to get harder as the squash matures. If the seeds are hard, discard them.
Lauki has always been regarded as one of the healthiest veggies. This very versatile vegetable is full of water (about 92%) and minerals and keeps your body hydrated. The juice of the fruit is prescribed for stomach acidity, indigestion and ulcers.
“Bottle gourd is a vegetable high on water and is a rich source of vitamin C, K and calcium. It helps in maintaining a healthy heart and brings down bad cholesterol levels. The juice is also beneficial for diabetic patients as it stabilizes the blood sugar level and maintains blood pressure. The best time to have it is in morning. A small glass would just be perfect. Also, one needs to consume the juice immediately as it oxidizes quite fast,” — Bangalore-based Nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood.
There are 3 recorded cases of death after drinking lauki juice, so if you are keen to juice lauki, please seek advice and do your own research. The toxicity does not exist in it’s solid forms, only when it is juiced.
Ayurveda holds that lauki can help lose weight. Cooked lauki is a diuretic and good antidote to urinary disorders. Or so they say.