[Winter Melon, White Pumpkin, Wax Gourd, Safed Petha (Hindi), Dong Gua (China), Benincasa hispida]
These large gourds are popular in China as Winter Melon and are actually the mature phase of the Fuzzy Melon. They are valued both for their delicacy when cooked and because, with their waxy coating, they can be kept well into the winter. Carefully handled they can last for 12 months. They are also popular in Southeast Asia and in India (as Ash Gourd) where they are used for both sweets and curries. Immature melons are sold as Fuzzy Melon.
The first photo specimen is a spherical variety about 10 inches in diameter. These are favored by markets in Southern California because they're small enough to sell whole and can be easily cut into wedges for sale. The second photo (below) shows very small examples of a sausage shaped variety. Sausage shaped melons can easily top a yard long and 50 pounds, but the photo specimen was just 15 inches long, 4-1/2 inches diameter and weighed 4 pounds.
More on Gourds.
Buying: Ash gourd can be found in markets serving Southeast Asian, Chinese and Indian communities. Because of their large size they are usually cut into wedges or slices and wrapped in plastic film, but smaller ones are often sold whole. In Southern California the spherical varieties are most common sold whole.
Storage: Whole gourds, if in good condition with the waxy coating intact, can just be left sitting on the kitchen floor for a month or more. They will keep longer in a cooler place. Once cut they will keep refrigerated for less than a week.
Prep: Just peel off the green rind with your regular vegetable peeler, it is very thin.
Cooking: Ash Gourd is very tender and delicate but, as with other gourds, chunks hold their shape well compared to squash. Most recipes call for simmering for about 15 minutes.