With its showy flower and inviting red fruit, this tropical vine provides food and green healing agents to its grateful devotees.
What does it do?
Young and tender, the green fruit is eaten raw in salads or cooked as an ingredient in zesty curries. Once ripened, the reddened fruit—rich in vitamins A and C and the trace minerals zinc and selenium—acquires an unforgettably sweet taste. The young leaves make a delicious addition to soups, or they can be cooked as a potherb and applauded for playing various roles in a kitchen cast featuring a wide variety of meals. The ivy gourd plant has effective laxative qualities, and its medicinal offerings don’t stop there. Diabetes has been treated in India since ancient times by employing the blood sugar-lowering juice taken from the roots and leaves. A poultice made from the leaves is applied to eruptions of the skin. The stem provides juice that is dropped into the eyes where cataracts are present. Ivy gourd is used internally among natural health practitioners to combat gonorrhea.
About the herb
Native to tropical Africa and Asia, ivy gourd features ivy-shaped leaves and a lovely five-pointed white bloom. Its red fruit grows between one and three inches in length. Capable of growing up to 4 inches a day, ivy gourd can explode in sheer numbers if not carefully regulated. Soon after it was introduced to Hawaiian soil as a backyard garden crop where it was known as Thai spinach, it became one of the most noxious of the invasive species to plague that isolated land over the past several centuries, despite its many beneficial uses. Individual plants are male or female, necessitating cross-pollination to survive and thrive.
Ivy gourd fruit can be included in fruit or vegetable juice combinations, its ability to contribute to lower blood sugar levels serving as a natural boon to diabetics. The fruit will also bring relief where the tongue has sores, and it further acts favorably in cases of eczema.