Luffa or ridge gourd is an elongated, cylindrical fruit pod in the cucurbitaceae/gourd family of vegetables. Its young, tender and mild flavored pods indeed are one of the very popular vegetables featuring in the Indian, Chinese and Filipinos cuisine.
Scientific name: Luffa acutangula (L.) Roxb.
Luffa are also known as patola (Filipinos), angled or ribbed luffa, silk gourd, dishcloth gourd, silk squash, and Chinese okra, Sin qua, etc.
|Ridge gourd. Note that long, cylindrical, green pod on a vine.|
Luffa is a fast-growing, climbing vine that often requires some support to facilitate its spread. It grows well in sandy, fertile soils and requires good sunlight and humid conditions to flourish. Large, lobed leaves are deep green with fine hairs on their surface. Yellow, female-flowers appear which develop into elongated, straight, or slightly curved pods. The pods, when at edible pod stage immature, measure about 10-18 cm in length
The two most common species of luffa are-
Ridge gourd (L. acutangula) is the most common cultivated variety. Its surface is covered with ridges that run along its length.
Smooth luffa (L. cylindirca) is larger and more cylindrical, with a slightly thicker base. Its skin is smooth like that of cucumber.
The interior of immature fruits in both varieties features smooth yet crunchy flesh and tiny soft seeds. If left to grow further, it quickly increases in size and develop a network of fibers tissue and seeds become hard and inedible.
Ridge gourd is one of the very low-calorie vegetables carrying just 20 calories per 100 g. Its delicate, sponge-textured flesh consists of moderate levels of minerals and vitamins in addition to being rich in anti-oxidants.
Both ridge and smooth varieties are good source of carotenes, lutein, and crypto-xanthin phenolic antioxidants.
Angled luffa has more vitamin-A than many other gourd vegetables. 100 grams of fresh fruit composes 410 IU (14% of DV) of vitamin A. Vitamin-A is essential for mucosal integrity, the health of skin, hair, and vision. It also works as an anti-cancer, anti-aging factor at the cellular level in humans.
Fresh ridge gourd is a small source of vitamin-C (100 g of raw fruit provides 12 mg or about 20% of RDA). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants that help the human body scavenge cancer-causing harmful free-radicals.
Being rich in dietary fibers and smooth flesh, luffa facilitates easy digestion and smooth bowel movements. Thus, a fiber-rich diet helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
Further, it is also a modest source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||% of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.2 g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber||0.5 g||1%|
In the tropics, ridge gourd is available all around the seasons. Look for fresh, tender angled luffa in the local farmer markets. Choose a green, immature, firm pod with a long intact stem.
Avoid oversize, mature, sunken, and flabby fruits as they may be a sign of old-stock and flavorless. Also, avoid those with surface cuts, cracks, bruised, or broken.Fresh luffa does not last long. At home, store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and should be used within two or three days of purchase before it begins to limp.
Wash in clean water to rid off any surface dirt, and sand. Scrape the ridges and slice the fruit of desired size using a paring knife, leaving the skin in between so that the luffa is striped green and white. If the skin is very tough, it is best to peel it off completely. Like in squashes and gourds, luffa should not be overcooked.
Luffa has a mild, delicate flavor and soft texture; very similar to that of bottle gourd. It is used mostly in the stir-fried dishes or soups. It goes particularly well with lentils in lentil curry and mixed-vegetable stews.
Peeled, freshly harvest ridge gourd may be eaten raw in a similar way like peeled pumpkin, squash, or calabash. However, the whole or partly peeled luffa should always be cooked as its skin contains unpleasant smelling compounds which make it unappetizing raw.
Here are some serving tips:
In the mainland China, finely sliced sin qua is particularly used in and soups, and stir-fries.
In Northern India, Pakistan and Nepal, turai or tori (Luffa cylindrica), a smooth skinned cultivar of ridge gourds is specially employed in stews (tori ki sabzi).
Ridge gourd is a common vegetable featuring in curries/tovve/stews in many parts of South Indian states.
Almondingas recipe is a traditional soup dish popular in the Philippines. It uses thin sliced patola (loofa gourd), noodles, and pork meatballs.
Some luffa pods containing bitter cucurbitacin alkaloid compounds have been reported. Test a small slice for any bitter tasting and just discard them if found so to avoid any untoward episodes. (Medical disclaimer).
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