So many names for this guy! So, is it really a gourd or a melon? When ripe, it’s used as a vegetable, but the unripe “fruit” is very sweet, and is used as a fruit. Interesting? I think so too! At least the Japanese could decide on one name. It’s called a Tougan (冬瓜). The kanji in this word is for winter 冬and melon瓜. Yay for fun with kanji! Why did this winter melon show up at the farmers market last month and not in December? It actually ripens during the summer, but because of the waxy exterior, it lasts long through the winter.
This vegetable is useful in ayurveda for both pitta and kapha. It’s very cooling for pitta during the summertime. It helps balance acidity for those with pitta issues like ulcers. It is also useful for diabetics and those desiring to lose weight. It’s also a diuretic so it will support in detoxification.
- 1 small tougan
- 1 gobo stalk (burdock)
- Fresh or Dried shiitake mushroom
- ½ inch piece of ginger
- 1 leek
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp miso
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 8 cups of water
- 5 umeboshi (pickled plum)
Bring water to a boil. Slice ginger into thin discs and add to water along with black pepper. Thinly slice leeks (soak in a bowl of water to remove dirt) and add to pot. Peel the gobo stalk, and then use the peeler to make thin strips of gobo and add right into the pot. Peel, deseed and chop tougan, then add to pot along with dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, miso and soy sauce. Remove and discard pits from umeboshi, chop and add to soup. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until tougan is translucent. Turn off heat, add cilantro and serve.
Vata- swap the mushrooms for pumpkin and add some chili pepper
Kapha- only use dried shiitake mushrooms, add chili pepper
Classically, ayurveda has not made much use of mushrooms nutritionally or medicinally. There is not much information about them, except that they are regarded as being tamasic, heavy and difficult to digest, especially for vatas. The same can be said about meat, but to a lesser degree, to put things into perspective. The Japanese, however, highly value shiitake for immune support.