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Ridgegourd (Beerakai)

Ridgegourd scientifically known as Luffa acutangula and also known as turiya or turai or beerakai or dodka in different languages in India is another variety of gourd and a versatile vegetable which adds a facet to the vegetarian cuisine. This is also known as Chinese Okra or Sponge gourd.

This vegetable is an extremely popular vegetable in the Asian, African and Arabic countries. Also known by other name like loofah, luffa or tori etc this vegetable is believed to be originated in the Arabic desserts and spread throughout the world.

It is a dark green vegetable on the exterior side with white pulp and white seeds embedded within in a spongy flesh. All the species of the ridge gourd or loofah are edible and must be consumed before they mature or else they are too woody and fibrous to eat.

Luffa or ridge gourds are tropical and subtropical vines of the plant family Cucurbitaceae. Luffa acutangula and Luffa aegyptiaca (luffa cylindrical) are at least two species that are grown and harvested before maturity and eaten as vegetable in Asia and Africa.

In India, a variety of dishes are prepared with the ridge gourd where they prepare the chutney, add them to the dal or make a curry with this vegetable. In Maharashtra, India, dodka (ridged gourd/luffa) and ghosavala (smooth luffa) are common vegetables prepared with either crushed dried peanuts or with beans.

Luffa or ridge gourd grows arrow straight, slightly curved, or much curved.  One variety of this vegetable grows very short and wide sponges.  These are typically used for pot scrubbers.  Another type, grown more often for food, produces extremely thin long fruits. 

When small, the fruits are very flexible and will conform to whatever shape they are against.  The ridged or angled luffa (Luffa acutangula) is a different species of luffa.  It produces fiber but is often used as a food crop. It can be identified by the pronounced ridges that run along the skin lengthwise.

It tends to be thinner, bent or curved, and more elongated than the Luffa cylindrica. Edible luffa found in markets is probably more often acutangula than the cylindrica species. Luffa acutangula is also commonly known as Patola in the Tagalog language of the Philippines.

The edible size fruits taste something like a cross between a zucchini and a cucumber. Some luffa varieties may produce fruits that are too bitter to eat. Peeling the skin off reduces bitterness but is probably not usually necessary to do so. If it tastes bad, don't eat it.

Many commonly cultivated varieties are edible. The ridge gourd could be either stir fried or make into a nice spicy curry. Ridge gourd could also be cut into slices and fired in batter like our chilli bajjis. A healthier option would be to make gravy out of it.

Fry some onions, tomatoes, garlic with some salt and chilli powder. Add some cubed ridge gourd and let it cook on a simmering flame. Add half a cup of milk and let the gravy thicken. After removing from flame, season and serve hot.

Ridge gourd is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, thiamin, iron, magnesium and manganese. The nutritional value of gourd makes it suitable for maintaining optimum health, weight lose.

It has excellent cooling properties. Ridge gourd is a powerhouse of nutrients and are rich is dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, thiamine, iron and magnesium. It is also low in fat and calories. Being low in saturated fat and cholesterol make it the ideal choice for those who wish to lose weight.

It also has very high water content, making it a very low calorie vegetable (only 60 calories in 100 gm of cooked ridge gourd). This vegetable has excellent blood purifying properties which helps to purify, restore and nourish liver protecting it from alcohol intoxication.

Cellulose in ridge gourd helps to overcome constipation and also aids in curing piles. A glass of Ridge gourd juice mixed with other healthy vegetables in the morning can help to strengthen your immune system against any infection. The nutritional value per 100 gms of edible portion of ridge gourd are: Energy: 17 (KCal) Protein: 0.5 (g) Carbohydrate: 3.4 (g) Fat: 0.1 (g) Calcium: 18 (mg) Iron: 0.39 (mg)

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