Fuzzy melon (also called mo gwa or mo qua) is a fruit native to China. It's also grown in Southeast Asia and other warm climates, including California and Florida. Fuzzy melon is an edible gourd and immature winter melon that looks like a fuzzy zucchini. Often cooked like a vegetable in Asian cuisines, this mild-tasting fruit appears in a variety of soups and stir-fries, and you can stuff or steam it. The seeds are edible, but the fuzz needs to be removed before cooking.
Other Names: fuzzy squash, hairy gourd, mo gwa, mo qua
Place of Origin: China
Related To: winter melon
What Is Fuzzy Melon?
Fuzzy melon (Benincasa hispida var. chieh-gua) is a type of edible wax gourd harvested when it is young, about one week after it blossoms. If left on the vine to mature, the fuzzy exterior disappears, becoming known as winter melon. It goes by many names, including hairy gourd, fuzzy squash, and hairy cucumber.
The skin is a blotchy green with fine white hairs that create a fuzzy texture, similar to a kiwi. The interior flesh is white and has a mild taste, and the seeds are edible, offering a nice crunch. The fuzzy melon can have a similar shape to an eggplant, grow longer like zucchini, or have a dumbbell shape. It is 6 to 10 inches long and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Preparing fuzzy melon is simple: remove the hairs and cut the fruit according to the recipe. The cost of fuzzy melon will vary with the season, but it's typically reasonable.
Fuzzy Melon vs. Winter Melon
The fuzzy melon is the younger version of a winter melon. It is significantly smaller than a mature winter melon, which does not have hairy skin. Winter melon and fuzzy melon are often used interchangeably in recipes. Fuzzy melon is slightly sweeter than winter melon, but they both absorb the taste of other ingredients when cooked in soups and stir-fries.
How to Cook With Fuzzy Melon
Before using a fuzzy melon, remove the hairy fibers. Because the skin is very thin, a vegetable peeler is not recommended; instead, carefully run a knife down the length of the vegetable to scrape off the hairs. You can also scrub the fuzzy melon to achieve the same effect. The skin does not have to be removed, but most often, it is taken off before cooking or eating raw.
If the fuzzy melon is going to be stuffed, remove the seeds with a spoon. Otherwise, removing the seeds is optional when the melon will be cut and added to recipes. It is often sliced or cut into chunks before cooking and can be braised, stir-fried, steamed, and stuffed, as well as added to soups and stews.
What Does It Taste Like?
Fuzzy melon has a bit more flavor than zucchini with a subtle, slightly sweet taste. The soft, fleshy interior absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients it is cooked with.
Fuzzy Melon Recipes
Most recipes that call for fuzzy melon are from Asian cuisines. It's also found in dishes worldwide, including the Caribbean and South America, among others. Use fuzzy melon as a substitute for winter melon. It even works in certain zucchini recipes.
- Chinese Winter Melon Soup (Substitute fuzzy melon for the winter melon.)
- Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry (Add fuzzy melon.)
- Stuffed Zucchini (Substitute fuzzy melon for the zucchini.)
Where to Buy Fuzzy Melon
Fuzzy melon is sold year-round, particularly in Asian markets, and you can grow winter melon in a backyard garden. Look for small gourds that are heavy for their size, firm to the touch without any soft spots, and free of wrinkles and dark markings.
Store fuzzy melon in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will last for up to 10 days. If left for too long, the flesh turns soft and can become tart over time.