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Oh Gourds!

Miguel Braganza

Come monsoons, and creepers are found aplenty in Goa, covering everything from sign-boards along the road to telephone and electric poles as well as many tree canopies.A large chunk of these creepers are cucurbits and among them is the group commonly known as gourds. These include: ridge gourd, sponge gourd, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, snake gourd, wild gourd and the little gourd which are known in Konkani language as gosalim, marttim gosalim, Konkan dudhi, karanttim, poddolim, faglam and tendlim.

These grow as vines and have tendrils to hold on to any available support. Almost all cucurbits are pollinated by insects, mostly honey bees. Hence, the use of insecticides reduces pollination and fruit-set, either reducing fruit size or the number of fruits per vine or both.

If you have not planted these at the onset of the rains, the good news is that they can still be grown now. There is a regular demand for these and the Goa Horticulture Corporation buys all these, except for sponge gourd and faglam, because many people do not know about these two gourds.

To plant these, just dig the soil in a circle about half a metre in diameter. Add about one gamella of well-rotted compost or cow dung manure to this soil. Mix thoroughly and make a mound of about 30 centimetres (one foot) in diameter and 15 centimetres high. Sow three seeds, each about 15 centimetres apart from the other, in a triangle. Cover lightly with soil and water it. It is better to give some live support (trees) or mechanical support (stakes, trellis, wire mesh or fence) for gourds to climb on.

Snake gourd or Poddolem is a long, slender, almost cylindrical fruit with soft pulp. The seeds are large, cream to straw yellow in colour, woody with crenulated margins. When the fruit is about 30 centimetres [one foot] long, tie a small stone to its growing tip. Use jute twine (sutli) or ribbon but not thread. If the stone is large or the thread is fine, the fruit will break or detach from the plant. Harvest when the fruit is half-mature.

The ridge gourd or Gosallem is a semi-cylindrical fruit, tapering towards the stalk-end. The skin is rough, dark green and with distinct, often sharp, ridges from the stalk to the tip. The seeds are dark brown to black, oval and with a hard seed coat. If you do not have a Krishi Card or are not registered with the horticulture corporation, route your sales through a registered grower in your locality. The local vegetable outlet may also buy your vegetables directly. You can also barter or sell vegetables among friends and neighbours. However, growing your own vegetables is the only way to ensure that they are not being treated with insecticides.

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