Fuzzy melon, called mo gwa or mo qua, is a vegetable that is native to Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines. It looks like a zucchini covered with fuzz; however, while zucchini is a type of squash, fuzzy melon is a gourd. It is an immature winter melon, a mild-tasting fruit often used as a vegetable in Asian cooking. Fuzzy melon is used in a number of dishes such as soups and stir-fries, and is also stuffed and steamed. The fuzz needs to be removed before using; removing the seeds is optional and will depend on the preparation.
Also known as: fuzzy squash and hairy gourd
Place of origin: China
Related to: winter melon
What Is Fuzzy Melon?
Fuzzy melon (Benincasa hispida var. chieh-gua) goes by many names, including hairy gourd, fuzzy squash, and hairy cucumber. It is a type of edible wax gourd that is harvested when it is young, about one week after it blossoms. If left on the vine to mature, the fuzzy exterior disappears and it becomes known as winter melon. The skin is a blotchy green with fine white hairs that create the fuzzy texture, similar to a kiwi, and the interior flesh is white and has a mild taste. The seeds are edible and offer 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.
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 and has fuzzy skin; if left on the vine, the fuzz will dissipate and the gourd will grow in size. 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 fuzzy melon, the hairy fibers need to be removed. Because the skin is very thin, a vegetable peeler is not recommended; instead, 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. If the fuzzy melon is going to be stuffed, the seeds need to be removed; this can be easily done with a spoon. If the melon is going to be cut and added to recipes, removing the seeds is optional. 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
Since this gourd is Chinese, most recipes will be derived from Asian cuisine, whether stuffed with pork, stir-fried with meat and vegetables, or part of a Chinese soup. But fuzzy melon can also be used in place of zucchini in certain recipes.
Where to Buy Fuzzy Melon
Fuzzy melon is sold year-round; it is grown in California and may be found in Asian and Chinese markets. 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.
Nutrition and Benefits
Fuzzy melon is low in calories and has no fat. It is high in vitamin C, with a single serving containing more than 75 percent of the daily requirement. Fuzzy melon is also a good source of fiber and potassium.