Regular consumption has medical effects including lowering blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Bottle gourds can float for over 12 months in seawater yet still contain viable seeds!
How to grow
Sow seeds in pairs, in 9cm pots at 18-22 degrees C. Remove the weaker seedling and pot on if required, before planting outside. Choose relatively infertile soils with full sun and regular water supply.
Bottle gourds are a very vigorous climber and need substantial support - they will overwhelm bean poles, but can be grown over a sturdy shed! Surprising perhaps, they are suitable for containers.
Beautiful white flowers appear from July onwards, followed by usable fruits within three weeks which continue until the first frosts. Male flowers have longer stalks and open first. Female flowers have a baby fruit just behind the petals.
Harvesting and use
Pick young furry fruits 15-20cm or longer, they will store in the fridge for about a week. Mature fruit is much larger and smooth skinned - it will store for several months but is usually less pleasant to eat and very chewy by that stage.
Bottle gourds are often favoured for their firm texture when cooked, but the bland flavour needs help from spices or other ingredients. Remove skin unless baked whole, as this is rather tough.
Traditionally in Asian cooking, young bottle gourds are cooked with spices and pulses to make a rich dhal. Larger specimens can be stuffed with meat and tomatoes and baked, or added to other vegetables in a stir-fry or curry.
In Africa and parts of the Caribbean, the young leaves are eaten as a green vegetables, either combined chopped with other greens and boiled to a soft texture or eaten with a hot popper sauce.
Excess nitrogen produces leaves rather than fruit.
Bottle gourds or dudi will not cross with other cucurbits such as squashes or pumpkins, so there is no need to isolate them. Hand pollination is vital to produce seeds. Tie soft wool around the female flowerbud, just enough to prevent the petals parting. Flowers are most reception from late afternoon to early morning.
Take a soft brush, collect pollen on it from a male flower. Snip the string around the female flower and brush lightly against the female flower's centre.
After pollination, tie a paper bag over the female flower, until the petals have withered and a fruit has set. Repeat this until you have three fruits per plant. Seed continues to mature for several months after the fruit has been removed from the plant, so keep at or above 9 degrees C. Harvest the seed when the fruit turns soft.
Scoop out the pulp and wash in a sieve to extract the seed from the flesh, then dry on kitchen paper in a warm, airy place. tore seed fark and cool in an envelope. Bottle gourd seed only keeps for two years.