Spine Gourd is a seasonal vegetable which is super nutritious and low in calories. Its scientific name is Momordica Dioica. If you are from the Indian sub-continent, you may be able to identify it with several other names: meethakarela, khekhsa, pandora, kakkal, kankoda, kakrol, kantola, teasel gourd, konkani, bhat karol, kartola, or karkarkaya.
The spiky green vegetable is commonly seen during the monsoon season in India. It belongs to the bitter gourd family and actually tastes much more delicious than bitter gourd, while carrying very similar nutrition values.
I read an article in a local Indian newspaper that the price of spine gourd, per kilogram, is more expensive than the price of chicken! Crazy, eh? In the US, commercially produced meat is much cheaper than most organically grown vegetables, but in India, meat has always been priced high for various reasons. If you’ve never tried this unusual gourd, this is a simple and wonderful tasting recipe that you can get your culinary feet wet with.
This recipe is a simple preparation with minimal ingredients. In fact, it is just 5 ingredients – spine gourd, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, salt and oil! As with all our recipes, the idea is to make it taste good while at the same time not sacrificing on the nutrition.
Prepping this Vegetable
The trickiest part of this recipe is prepping the spine gourd. First off, being a seasonal vegetable, the best crop is not in grocery stores all through the year. Even during the season, you’ll need to make sure you pick the right ones – make sure they are green and firm to touch. The ripened ones are somewhat hard to tell, even to a trained eye. Though they may be green on the outside, they may be bright red inside with really hard seeds. I’ve had to chuck a few in the trash can because of that. The ideal ones are almost whitish green inside with very soft seeds (that actually taste great when cooked). You may not be lucky all the time, so when you do pick a few somewhat ripe ones, clean out the seeds and the red part inside the vegetable and use the rest of the gourd.
Once you have cut, cleaned and washed the vegetable, the rest of the process is fairly simple. While the recipe here is prepared in the Instant Pot, cooking in a pan on a stove top is equally simple, maybe somewhat easier too. Traditionally, this dish is sautéed in a pan – in fact, it is cooked till the vegetable almost turns brown, but I do not recommend that. You want to make sure the vegetable is cooked to the right amount of softness, in order to retain its nutritional value.
Spine Gourd in Ayurveda
Spine Gourd is considered to have cooling, analgesic, sedative, and diuretic properties. It balances all the three Doshas. In Ayurveda, it is used as a dietary measure to cure many diseases as urinary disorders, respiratory disorders, and immune dysfunctions related to inflammation and fevers.
It is also used against snake bites and a scorpion sting for its anti-venom properties. It should be consumed by new mothers to prevent colic and vomiting in babies. It supports functions of the heart and vital cleansing organs such as liver, kidneys, and skin.
- It is a great source of phytonutrients, a substance found in certain plants which are believed to be beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases.
- It is helpful in keeping seasonal cough, cold and other allergies at bay, due to its anti-allergen and analgesic properties.
- It reduces blood sugar levels in diabetic patients since it is rich in plant insulin.
- Carotenoids, like Lutein, present in this vegetable help in prevention of various eye diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even cancers. Being a source of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant, it removes toxic free radicals from the body reducing the chance of cancer.
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Check out some of our other delicious and nutritious sautéed veggie recipes here:
- Sautéed Tindora
- Sautéed Okra
- Sautéed Bitter Gourd
- Cluster Beans-Coconut-Ginger Sauté
- Fresh Fenugreek Eggplant Sauté
Spine Gourd Sauté
- 1/2 Pound Spine Gourd Cut to small pieces
- 1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil Cold pressed, organic
- 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
- Set up Instant Pot (IP) on sauté mode, add oil and wait for the 'hot' sign to show up (if you're cooking in a pan on a stove top, add oil and let it heat up for a minute on medium heat). Add mustard seeds, allow them to splutter and add the cut spine gourd and salt. Mix well and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally. Add chili powder (or cayenne pepper) and mix well.
- Sprinkle about 1/8th cup of water, mix well, set the IP lid and change to 'steam' mode for 5 minutes (in a regular pan, set the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes before removing the lid and stirring - repeat a couple of times till the vegetable softens). Remove lid, set back to 'sauté' mode and stir till moisture evaporates.
- Transfer to serving bowl and serve hot.