Scarlet Gourd

Coccinia grandis: Cucumber’s Versatile Kin

I was riding my motorcycle one day when I rumbled over a raised railroad track in an industrial area and to my immediate right above a greenery-covered security fence I caught a glimpse of  what I thought looked like Turk’s Cap blossoms, but not quite. Turk’s Caps is a bushy mallow that doesn’t grow too tall and I had to look up to see these “blossoms.”

I turned around, parked, and wandered over for a closer inspection while a few workers wondered why a motorcyclist was looking at a plant. The blossoms  were not Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus penduliflorus, which tend to stay closed taking the shape of a seashell called an Olive. No, these weren’t even blossoms. They were red fruit, ovoid to ellipsoid, about two inches long, 3/4 an inch wide through the middle. I had never seen them before. Nearby were several green ones with white stripes end to end. The large blossoms were five petaled and white. The key, however, was the vine. It looked like a cucumber.

It took some digging but I found it, Coccinia grandis. There was no doubt I had the right plant. As is too often the case, the United States Department of Agriculture maps said it did not grow here… That further confirmed to me I had the right plant. (If you have studied USDA maps you know exactly what I mean. They are inaccurate and woefully out of date.)

Called Ivy Gourd, Scarlet Gourd, Thai spinach, Kovai, Tindora (and a host of other names) the young leaves and slender tops of the stems are cooked and eaten as a potherb, in soups, or as a side dish, often with rice. The young and tender green fruits are eaten raw in salads, or boiled, steamed, fried, added to dishes like curry or soups or even fermented. The ripe, scarlet fruit is fleshy, on the sweet side, and eaten raw. It can also be candied. The fruit is often available in speciality markets and is very common in India. There are two varieties, both bitter and sweet (with no visible differences) and several cultivars both bitter and sweet. A second species, C. quinqueloba, has leaves that are edible cooked, often with Bidens pilosa, an old standby for foragers.  The fruits of the Coccinia rehmannii are edible and its starchy tuber is eaten after roasting. The leaves of Coccinia trilobata are a famine food. With the bitter ones usually only the young leaves and tips are used.

The green fruit of the C. grandis resembles a small, smooth pointed cucumber or long little watermelon. It is packed with seeds inside and while the skin is not tough but has just a little more resistant than a cucumber. The fruit grows red from the inside out. It is possible to have it reddish on the inside and not yet red on the outside. When green it is ever so slightly sour very much like a Melothria pendula, another wild member of the cucumber clan. When fully ripe it gets very soft.

Said kok-SIN-ee-uh GRAN-dees, (Big Red) the plant in the lab has shown anti-oxidant, anti-triglyceride, and anti-bacterial activity and is useful in the treatment of jaundice. It’s also been used to treat abscesses and high blood pressure. C. grandis has been introduced as a food crop in several countries in Asia, as well as Australia, Pacific Islands, Africa, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. It is found it at least Florida, Texas and Hawaii and probably other unreported warm areas.

Ripe Ivy Gourd is high in beta-carotene, has vitamins A and C, but low on the glycemic index. Per 100 g edible portion, the fruits contain: water 93.5 g, energy 75 kJ (18 kcal), protein 1.2 g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 3.1 g, fiber 1.6 g, Ca 40 mg, P 30 mg, Fe 1.4 mg, thiamine 0.07mg, riboflavin 0.08 mg, niacin 0.7 mg, ascorbic acid 1.4 mg. See recipe on bottom and my video.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: C. grandis: Stems mostly hairless, green and longitudinally ribbed when young, becoming white-spotted when older and eventually woody, tendrils simple, in the axils. Leaves alternate, simple, broad, ovate, 5-lobed, heart-shaped, stem has 3-8 glands near the base; inflorescence usually solitary, axillary flowers.  Corolla deeply divided into 5 lobes. Stamens 3, present as staminodes in female flowers. Fruit a smooth, striped green turning bright red, ovoid to ellipsoid about two inches long.

TIME OF YEAR: Can produce year round

ENVIRONMENT: Agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, disturbed and waste areas.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Young leaves and slender tops of the stems are cooked and eaten as a potherb, in soups, or as a side dish, often with rice. The young and tender green fruits are eaten raw in salads, or boiled, steamed, fried, added to dishes like curry or soups or even fermented. The ripe, scarlet fruit, is fleshy, on the sweet side, and eaten raw. It can also be candied

Recipe courtesy of Show Me The Curry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULMWk9XhURU

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: Approx 20-25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Tindora – approx 1 1/2 lbs, sliced
Oil – 1 Tbsp
Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin Seeds – 1/2 tsp
Asofoetida (Hing) – pinch
Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
Green Chilies – to taste, finely chopped
Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Red Chili Powder – to taste
Salt – to taste

Method:

1. Heat Oil in a medium non-stick pan on medium heat.
2. Add Mustard Seeds and allow them to pop.
3. Add Cumin Seeds and let them sizzle.
4. Add Asofoetida, Turmeric Powder, Green Chilies and Tindora. Mix well.
5. Add Salt, Red Chili Powder, Coriander Powder and Cumin Powder.
6. Mix well, cover and cook until Tindora are tender. Stir every few minutes to cook evenly and prevent burning.
7. When Tindora are tender, uncover and cook for an additional few minutes to lightly brown them.

Tips:

1. In a time crunch, use the slicer blade of your food processor to roughly chop/slice the Tindora.
2. Cleaned and cut Tindora freeze well.
3. Be careful when salting Tindora. They tend to shrink and become a little salty and tangy.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jaclyn November 2, 2011 at 11:28

Could you do a video on Turk’s Cap, Please? I have some beautiful ones in my yard and you always give the best and most useful information for eating wild stuff. :) I didnt find an existing video on this specific plant but if you have done a break down on this can you email me a copy? Thank you soooooo much Green Dean! Your tips are wonderful!

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2 Green Deane November 2, 2011 at 11:41

Thanks for writing. I had not considered doing a video on the Turks Cap. It is mentioned in the article Mallow Madness.

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3 Bana August 24, 2012 at 19:18

Hi
I live in Sydney, Australia. Is any way to get tindora root to grow in my garden? I am willing to pay for cost of the root + shipping.

I will be delighted to hear from you.
Cheers, Bana

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4 Susan November 6, 2012 at 14:31

I found this tasty treat growing near a fence in my backyard this weekend! I am in very southern Hillsborough County, Florida. Love your website!

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5 Anongsin January 16, 2013 at 18:41

Do you have their seeds? I’d love to have them grown in my back yard.

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6 Green Deane January 17, 2013 at 06:15

No, I do not. However, I have sent your request to a friend who does.

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7 speedwell June 8, 2013 at 22:51

I bought a pound or so of tindora at the Indian market near me after having some in a delicious curry at an Indian vegetarian restaurant I like. I’m a good cook, but I don’t have any experience with Indian cooking to speak of. Impressed by its resemblance to a cucumber or zucchini, I decided to make it like an Italian vegetable. I quartered the tindora and sauteed it till slightly browned with a sweet onion, some garlic, and some red chile flakes. I added a can of Italian cherry tomatoes, oregano, thyme, and sea salt, and simmered everything together for about ten minutes. Then I served it in a pasta bowl with some grated Romano cheese on top. The tindora was just the consistency of perfectly cooked Italian green beans. The dish was delicious. I could have had it with pasta. I do eat meat, but I wouldn’t cook the tindora with it as its delicate flavor would be completely overwhelmed.

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8 Antony thomas June 28, 2013 at 19:48

I stumbled upon a similar plant in my back yard. It looks like Coccinia indica but is small and round like marbles ( the fruit ). Took a bite it tasted like the fruit you mentioned above. I think it belongs to the same family but a different genus. Could you help me identify it ? Thanks.

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9 Green Deane June 28, 2013 at 20:57

You can post a picture on the Green Deane forum.

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10 Daksha December 28, 2013 at 18:55

Coccinea indica plant has two different variants – bitter tasting fruit type which is only used as medicine (according to Ayurveda) and is found growing wild in many countries including the US ,and the sweet variety called Tindora, fruits of which are also used in different food preparations. They are very popular in South Asian countries.
Please visit our website. We are already exporting tissue cultured plants of the edible variety and looking for people who would be interested to stock and sell for us.
Cheers for good health benefits from the tindora plant!

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11 aruna February 22, 2014 at 12:50

please let me know where I can buy the plant or root stock

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12 Green Deane February 22, 2014 at 14:30

Ask Andy Firk on facebook (Arcadia Florida.)

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13 Sarada February 25, 2014 at 11:29

I love this vegetable a lot. Can I get a plant of this? I live in austin, tx.

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14 Green Deane February 25, 2014 at 14:52

I think Andy Firk in Arcadia sells them. You can find him on facebook.

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15 Edward Ehimigbai April 20, 2014 at 12:34

Where and how can obtain product in London or Kent UK?

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16 Green Deane April 20, 2014 at 14:26

he’s on facebook.

Reply

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