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When my new neighbor moved from China and inadvertently introduced me to “si gua”, I was a happy brown thumb gardener. It's really easy to grow and I also found an easy dish to use it in. Si gua is a vegetable gourd known alternately as loofah (luffa), Chinese okra or silk squash. Whatever it’s known as, it looks and tastes like zucchini to me.
This beautiful vine with its heart shaped leaves and golden flowers lifting their faces to the sun grew over the adjoining fence of our condos. Their daughter told me to cook it with egg. Since it looked and tasted like zucchini, I prepared it the way I would have prepared a zucchini omelet except for the substitution of soy sauce for salt.
If Nan can ...
Sliced si gua
Chopped hot peppers
2 raw eggs whipped
I sautéed raw onion, si gua slices, chopped pepper and garlic in extra virgin olive oil and poured the whipped eggs over it. When done, I flipped and cooked the other side
If you're trying to get vegetables worked into your diet, try this as a healthy meal for breakfast or for lunch,
Though I read that you could batter and fry the flowers and stir fry the green leaves, or put the raw loofah in your salad, I was content with my omelets for the remainder of the summer.
I allowed the rest to grow into a gourd. I stuck a long stick through the center of the gourd while it was green as per the instructions of one of my nieces who surprised me by telling me that she also grows loofah. When the gourd dried, I opened it up to find the black seeds and the white dried flesh that is used to make soap or to make a bathing “sponge.” I never bothered to make soap or a bath sponge.
I was more concerned to save the seeds. The following year I had a beautiful back fence covered with flowers. I had enough loofah to give some of it away. What I was most pleased with were the glorious flowers. I brought some to show to the ESL (English Second Language) class. Some of them brought in loofah as well.
I was so impressed with myself and my garden expertise that I took leaves, loofah fruit and flowers to my writing class at the local library. I talked about the plant as I passed it around, giving hints and asking anyone who could to identify it.
“Guǎngdōngsīguā can be used for a number of things. You can make hats with it.,” I hinted. “Before World War II ,part of this plant was used to filter boilers in US ships. You can eat the flower, the fruit and the leaves. You can weave baskets with the vines." Everyone examined the plant closely and talked about what it might be but no one had a clue. I was proud to tell them I had grown the si gua myself and to show them pictures. I had the best speech that day. It's not bragging if it's true.
"You can also make a mean omelet with it," I concluded.