What exactly is a winter melon? Today we'll give you a little crash course on how to grow winter melon as well as what exactly it is and how to care for it! Winter melons are also called ash gourd, wax gourd, white gourd, white pumpkin, Chinese watermelon, Chinese preserving melon, Benincasa, Hispida, Doan Gwa, Dong Gwa, Lauki, Petha, Sufed Kaddu, Togan, and Fak. Basically, each region that grows this fruit has a different name for it! So with so many names, what is a winter melon? Winter melons are grown in warm regions, specifically Asia and south Florida and are a variety of musk melons. One of the largest fruits ever, the winter melon is about a foot long, can weigh up to 40 pounds, and has a dark green appearance.

insides of winter melon

The outer layer is hard with a waxy coating and grows on curly vines, much like watermelons. The white flesh is the part that's edible and it's sweet, with tiny little seeds and can taste a lot like zucchini squash. In general, winter melon has a very mild flavor, and that's why it's such a great vegetable because anything can be added to it.

The really interesting thing about winter melon is that once harvested, can keep for 6-12 months when stored in a dry, cool area. These melon plants have a lot to offer if grown right! Winter melons are part of the gourd family, and are commonly referred to as curcurbits, which includes cucumbers, melons, squash, zucchini, and pumpkins. Keep reading to find out how to grow winter melon in your garden and reap the benefits of this extremely interesting fruit!

How to Grow Winter Melon in Your Garden

winter melon plant

Planting Winter Melon:

  • Winter melons have a long growing season and are usually harvested in late fall.
  • To get ahead, you may sow winter melon seeds indoors and transplant once soil temperatures have reached 60F.
  • If sowing directly outside, sow seeds in good quality potting soil once the temperature has reached 60F. Melons grow best in well drained soil.
  • Choose a sunny spot.
  • Do not put up a trellis: a winter melon plant loves to spread all over the ground so make sure you have enough space!
  • Water your winter melon on a regular basis, and make sure it has enough sun.
  • Other than that, winter melons are pretty non-fussy!

Harvesting Winter Melon:

  • Winter melon can take a long time to come to fruition, but they'll usually be ready to harvest 110 days after sowing.
  • Winter melons are ready to harvest once they've reached their full size and the stems turn brown.
  • Be sure to leave winter melon on the vine until completely ready to be harvested.

How to Cook With Winter Melon:

Courtesy of Casey Chin

Winter melons have a multitude of uses in the kitchen, so many so in fact, that they truly could be unlimited! Often used in Chinese cooking, you can usually find winter melon at your local Asian markets.

When preparing winter melon, the skin and seeds need to be completely removed – only the white flesh is edible. Once the white flesh has been separated, it can be sliced or cubed, depending on what you're cooking. It can be steamed, boiled, simmered, parboiled, or braised. The longer it cooks, the softer the flesh becomes, which means you don't want to cook it for too long as it can become mushy. Because of the mild taste of the winter melon, spices and herbs are usually added.

Most commonly, winter melon is used in soups, as it tends to absorb the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. In many cultures, the winter melon becomes the cooking vessel, where the flesh is cooked inside the actual fruit with spices, herbs, and other ingredients. It is also served inside the fruit.

Winter melon can also be served as a desert, and is often candied to make all sorts of deserts. Alternatively, it's often added to yogurts, smoothies, and ice creams. It can also be purred and strained to be added to juices. As you can see, winter melon has countless cooking possibilities – it's all about how creative you can get!

How to Grow Winter Melon

Learn how to grow winter melon with these expert gardening tips and tricks!
Course: Vegetables
Cuisine: Winter Melon
Keyword: diy gardening, how to grow, vegetables,, winter melon

Instructions

  • Winter melons have a long growing season and are usually harvested in late fall.
  • To get ahead, you may sow winter melon seeds indoors and transplant once soil temperatures have reached 60F.
  • If sowing directly outside, sow seeds in good quality potting soil once the temperature has reached 60F. Melons grow best in well drained soil.
  • Choose a sunny spot.
  • Do not put up a trellis: winter melons love to spread all over the ground so make sure you have enough space!
  • Water your winter melon on a regular basis, and make sure it has enough sun.
    Other than that, winter melons are pretty non-fussy!
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