If you’ve never heard of winter melon, you may have heard it called by one of its many other names such as ash gourd or ash pumpkin.
While it has long been a delicious ingredient used in Asian cuisines for several decades now, winter melons have only recently begun gaining the attention of other parts of the world.
Not only can they act as a downright delicious substitute for many similar foods such as chayote and cucuzza, winter melons are also one of the best ingredients you can use to freshen up your favorite beverage since it is commonly used to make different flavored teas.
With all this being said, however, the real question is how does a winter melon actually taste (see also ‘Pepino Melon: Taste And How To Eat It‘)?
And how much does it differ from the juicy and sweet flavor of regular melons? Here is all you need to know about this delicious fruit.
What Is A Winter Melon?
The reason the winter melon can be referred to by so many different names is because it is a member of the gourd family, also referred to as Cucurbitaceae, which also includes other fruits such as cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins.
It is known to thrive in much warmer climates such as around certain part of America including Califronia and the hotter regions of Asia.
While it has only recently grown in popularity in the western world, winter melons have been commonly used in many Asian dishes for decades, specifically in China and India where it is sold in markets with an incredibly high demand.
Their appearance largely resembles that of a regular melon, however they are known to be on the heavier side with the average winter melon weighing more than 40 pounds and being more than a foot long.
They have an oblong shape along with a dark green color palette and waxy skin that can be a little hairy before the melon has fully matured.
How Does A Winter Melon Taste?
Winter melons are known for having a mildly sweet taste that isn’t too overpowering.
In this sense, they have a very similar flavor to cucumbers having a very light and refreshing taste that makes for the perfect side-dish or appetizer after a large meal.
Another type of food that has nearly the exact same taste and flavor is watermelon rind with its very prominent fruity flavor that works just as well as part of a soup to soak up the extra flavors and ingredients, or as a part of a tea to mix in as many unique flavors as possible.
It is often mixed with other fruits or types of food that have a much stronger and more noticeable flavor to them since winter melon on it’s own can taste somewhat bland to a lot of people, however it’s when you incorporate it into a larger recipe that it’s underlying refreshing flavor is much more potent.
Health Benefits Of Winter Melon
The first thing to note is just how low in calories winter melons are, even if you consume them in bulk.
A single 3.5 ounce or 100 gram portion of winter melons only contains around 13 calories, and the primary reason for this is because 96% of the melon is made up of water, so there’s no extra carbs, fat or protein to ramp up the calorie count.
This is not to say that winter melons don’t contain any essential nutrients at all however, they actually offer small amounts of fibre, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
Winter melons are also incredibly rich in Vitamin C along with being a great source of cartoenes and flavonoids which help to protect the body from cell damage along with reportedly being able to help resist against certain conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
How To Serve Winter Melon
One huge benefit to using a winter melon as part of a recipe is the sheer amount of choice you get on how to use it.
Whether you’re in the mood for a light and refreshing soup or even just a healthy side ingredient to a chicken or pork based meal, it can be applied to virtually any dish to make it that much more delicious and healthy.
Winter melon soup is one signature dish that makes full use of the underlying sweetness of the melon that mixes so well with the meat, which in this case are pork meatballs.
After the winter melon is cooked in a fragrant broth until it’s nice and tender, the pork meatballs are cooked alongside and when they’re then mixed together within the winter melon broth, it creates a melt-in-the-mouth sensation with each and every bite.
Winter melon tea, also commonly known as winter melon punch, is also an extremely popular way to use this deliciously juicy fruit and can be prepared with just three ingredients which are: Winter melons, brown sugar, and rock sugar.
Simply mix the melon with the brown sugar in a soup pot and set aside for around an hour until some liquid begins forming.
You will then want to add the rock sugar to the mix and heat up the mixture over a stovetop until the winter melon is completely transparent which usually takes around 2 hours.
Once finished, turn off the heat, strain and press as much liquid through the strainer as you can and there you have it, a delicious winter melon tea which can be safely stored for up to a week for you to enjoy.
How Is A Winter Melon Different From A Fuzzy Melon?
Both the winter and fuzzy melon can be easily confused with each other because winter melons that are yet to mature will usually have a hairy appearance, however, there is actually a type of melon called ‘fuzzy melon’ that is entirely separate from winter melons and can be identified easily once you know exactly what they look like.
For one, fuzzy melons are a lot smaller than winter melons and look far more like a hairy zucchini rather than a regular melon covered in fur.
While both have an extremely similar refreshing taste, the fuzzy melon is known to taste slightly sweeter than fully grown winter melons which can make it a better choice if you want the fruity flavors to be a little more prominent in your dish, however both taste incredibly similar and can be easily interchanged.
Mild, refreshing, and perfect as part of a soup or tea, winter melons are an underrated gem when it comes to fruity ingredients that can spruce up any dish with a healthy dose of juicy flavor.