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Cooking an edible Thai bottle gourd AKA long squash

Updated on September 4, 2015
This Thai bottle gourd is a little smaller than the typical size you will see in a specialty grocery store.
This Thai bottle gourd is a little smaller than the typical size you will see in a specialty grocery store.

What is a Thai bottle gourd?

A Thai bottle gourd is an edible gourd that is harvested immature, similar to summer squash. It is not found in standard American grocery stores, and can usually only be found at some larger Oriental or international grocery stores.

This article describes one quick and easy method to cook this squash-like gourd. If you are unable to find a Thai bottle gourd to cook, substitute a zucchini in its place.

Step 1: Prepare the gourd for cooking

Long squash cut into thin rectangular shapes for easy cooking
Long squash cut into thin rectangular shapes for easy cooking

Peel and cut the gourd into whichever shape or shapes that you prefer. In this case, as seen in the photos, I cut the squash into thin rectangle-like shapes by first cutting the gourd in half. Next I laid the halves on their flat side and cut them into strips, and took each strip and laid them flat to further cut into strips. Last, I cut these strips sideways to shorten their length into quarters.

After the gourd is cut and ready to cook, chop 3 larger cloves or 5 smaller cloves of garlic (optional) and set aside to add while cooking.

Step 2: Cook the gourd

Cover the bottom of a medium sized pot with water, just enough so the gourd doesn't burn while cooking (roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch of water). Set stove to medium heat or slightly higher, add the cut gourd pieces, and cover with a lid.

Be sure to stir frequently, especially in the beginning, as the bottom pieces have a tendency to stick to the pot, and they will burn quickly, spoiling the flavor of the entire batch.

If you are cooking at a higher heat, be sure to check that the water doesn't evaporate. Add a little more if it does. The squash should cook within 5 to 10 minutes once the water starts to simmer, and will become very mushy if overcooked (which is okay if you like that).

Once the gourd softens up to desired texture, turn off heat, add chopped garlic, and stir, leaving the cooked gourd in the pot for at least a few more minutes. This allows the garlic to cook slightly to remove the strong raw bite, but keeps some of the flavor. If you have an extra strong flavored garlic, or you do not prefer as much of a garlic flavor, add the garlic while the heat is still on, but towards the end of the cooking process.

Step 3: Serve the gourd

Thai bottle gourd with bits of fresh parsley leaves added for color.  Crushed black pepper is coating the top layer.
Thai bottle gourd with bits of fresh parsley leaves added for color. Crushed black pepper is coating the top layer.

Once you have cooked the gourd, you have to decide how you would like it to be served. It is perfectly okay to eat it as it is, but it may be more appetizing to enhance its flavor a bit. Here are a few ways that you can do this:

Option 1: Drizzle some olive oil and a little bit of tamari sauce over the gourd and stir. These two ingredients can be used to enhance the flavors of most cooked and many raw vegetables.

Option 2: Squeeze the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon onto the cooked gourd and stir in. Salt to taste.

Option 3: Drizzle some olive oil over the squash, salt to taste, and grind some black peppercorns over the dish.

Option 4: serve plain with gomasio sprinkled on top or on the side.

Only add a small amount of olive oil if you are serving the gourd as a separate side dish. If you will be mixing or adding it to a starchy food such as rice, you can use more olive oil and more tamari sauce, as it will get diluted. If you are unsure, just start with a tiny amount, and add more at the table if it is not enough.

If you are apprehensive about adding these toppings to your vegetables, eat them plain, or just stick with salt and pepper for now. Experiment with flavors that you like until you have come up with a winning combo.

Lastly, if your pot of cooked gourd still has a lot of liquid remaining, you can strain it out when serving, or serve it with the liquid if you intend to eat it along with an absorbent food such as rice. This liquid likely contains many of the water soluble nutrients that may be present in the gourd.

Afterthoughts

Is long squash any better than zucchini and other summer squashes? In my opinion, not really. It does have its own unique mellow flavor, but I do not feel that you have to go out of your way to track down this vegetable when summer squash can be easily found, and since this flavor is foreign to our pallets, it may not be desirable to everybody, unless, of course, different is what you seek. Perhaps in the lands where it originated there are special ways to prepare it that make it superior to summer squash. If so, please let me know!

The main reason I eat this vegetable is because it is very easy to grow. Most years, squash bugs and squash vine borers destroy my squash plants, and I have a lack of fresh summer squash to cook with. This plant grows very quickly and nearly trouble free in my gardens. The squash bugs are not interested in this plant at all.

I took a couple of photos of this plant which I will post at the end of this article in case you would like to know what the plant looks like. I grew it on a trellis this year, which it happily and quickly climbed, but it can be grown just fine on the ground. It may take over your whole garden if you let it sprawl freely on the ground.

Additional cooking suggestions:

Before i show the photos, I would like to include a few more suggestions for cooking this gourd.

  1. The mellow flavors of long squash are well suited for cooking in curry spices. To do this, cook chopped or sliced onions in olive oil (or frying oil of your choice) until lightly browned. Add cut up gourd pieces and cover, cooking over medium heat. Some tomato juice, a tiny bit of tomato sauce, or a couple of cut tomatoes can be added if desired to help flavor the meal. Otherwise, you may need to add a tiny bit of water if the gourd does not cook properly. Cook until juices come out of gourd, and then add desired amount of curry powder (start with a teaspoon to a tablespoon for your first batch depending on how flavorful you like), stir well, and cook an additional 5 minutes or so. If there is too much liquid in the pot or pan, cook without a lid to allow some liquid to evaporate. Garlic cloves can be added at any point if desired. Taste test when gourd is well cooked to see if you have added enough curry. Serve on rice or other starchy food. This is not a traditional curry, but a simplified cooking method using curry powder.
  2. Cover frying pan or medium pot with a thin layer of olive oil, head on medium heat, and add 3 to 5 cloves of chopped garlic. Stir regularly until very lightly browned and then add cut up gourd to oil and garlic, stirring well. Add a little water if you suspect anything might burn, add cover, and cook until tender, stirring frequently if required.
  3. In a frying pan or medium pot, add enough water to cover the bottom about 1/8" or 1/4" deep. Add cut up gourd and cook over medium to medium high heat, stirring frequently. About halfway through cooking, add a tiny pinch of ground cumin, and a larger pinch (maybe 1/4 teaspoon or a little more) of ground cardamom and stir well. Cook to desired tenderness, and add salt or tamari sauce and olive oil when serving if desired. This will give some spiced flavor to the gourd.

This gourd and most vegetables can be added to more sustaining foods such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, baked potatoes, pasta, bread, etc. to be eaten as a meal. Eating a salad with your meal is always a good idea for improved digestion, especially when eating starchy foods. It Italy, the salad is eaten at the end of the meal, as they believe it to aid in digesting the foods eaten previously in the meal.



The plant

Thai bottle gourd plant climbing a primitive home made trellis
Thai bottle gourd plant climbing a primitive home made trellis
Long squash or young bottle gourds hanging from the vine
Long squash or young bottle gourds hanging from the vine
The lovely white bottle gourd flower blooms only in the evening, and the flower usually closes by early morning.
The lovely white bottle gourd flower blooms only in the evening, and the flower usually closes by early morning.

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