Bottle Gourd (or Cucumber) and Spinach Curry

Bottle gourds are one of the original immigrating foods, their seeds drifting across the ocean and making their way from Africa around the world to North America, South America, and Asia, over 10,000 years ago. Amazing!

Because bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) is also called calabash, they’re sometimes confused with the hard, hollow fruits of the unrelated calabash tree (Crescentia cujete).

Bottle gourd flesh is mild, very similar to cucumbers, but a little sweeter. Young seeds and bottle gourd skin are also edible, so you might want to save those for other dishes. But for this curry, you’ll be working with the flesh of the vegetable.

This is a simple curry on its own (lots of spices, but very few steps!), and can be easily varied by adding eggplant, lentils, or in this case, fresh spinach. Bottle gourd also makes a nice stir-fry (varai), or soup.

2 T vegetable oil
3-4 shallots (or red onion), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 stalk curry leaves (about a dozen)
1 green chilli pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 t. cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 t. Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
1 t. salt
4 cups (about 300 grams) bottle gourd (or cucumber), peeled, seeds removed and discarded, and chopped or shredded
2 c. coconut milk
juice of 1/2 – 1 lime (about 1-2 T)

1 bag baby spinach leaves (about 4 oz.), optional

1. Heat oil in a pot, and add onions, garlic, spices, and bottle gourd. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until onions are golden and a little browned.

2. Add coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes, stir in lime juice, then add spinach if using, and simmer 5-10 minutes more. Serve hot, with rice or bread.

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