Malabar Gourd

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Malabar gourd Cucurbita ficifolia, is also called zambo or Malabar melon or ivy-leaved gourd. This perennial cucurbit vine is cultivated on a minor scale and enjoys some popularity as a vegetable in Latin America from Mexico, its probable region of origin, down through the highlands of the Andes to C. Chile.

The fruit, which may weigh as much as 11 kg (24 lb), is white, green, or white and green striped. It has black seeds and white flesh, whose uses have been well summarized in Lost Crops of the Incas (National Research Council, 1989):

The young fruit are used like zucchini. The mature fruits are prized especially for desserts, usually cooked and served in sweet syrup. … Mature, they are commonly stored (kept dry, but without any special care) for two years, and yet their flesh remains fresh and actually gets sweeter with age. They are eaten boiled or in preserves.