Which is the most costly vegetable in town (I mean in Mumbai and Thane)?
If I say its Kantola you’re likely to be stumped. For, many of you may not have heard of such a vegetable. Okay, let me say “Spine Gourd”. Still stumped. Available during the monsoon months it’s priced at Rs 100 per kg. Also known as Kankoda it grows wild in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra.
A week or two after the rains had arrived I witnessed Kantola in my farm. Well, I was introduced to it by Mangal, my caretaker. “Saab it makes a great dish,” he insisted. And for the first time I tasted Kantola with potatoes cooked by my wife after she had downloaded the recipe from the Net. Its bitter but is unlike karela.
Spine gourd is a nutritious vegetable crop locally known as Meetha Karela, Khekhsa, Padora, Bhaat Karela, Konkani, Kakrol, Kankro, Aakakarakaya, Phagla, Phaagil, Ban Karela, Bhat Karola, Kartola, Teasel Gourd and Boda Kakarakaya among others, in different regions.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has identified Indira Kankoda I (RMF 37), a variety of spine gourd for commercial cultivation in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra.
Known to be beneficial to diabetic people, this will be the first spine gourd variety identified for commercial cultivation.
‘Newly identified Kankoda or spine gourd variety Indira Kankoda I (RMF 37) is resistant to all major pests. Its green fruits are very attractive, dark green and ready to harvest for vegetable purpose in 75-80 days from seeds in the first year and 35-40 days from tubers from second year onwards up to five-six years,’ according to ICAR.
The crop is popular among the farmers due to its nutritional value and its shelf life. If Kankoda seeds are once sown in the field, tubers sprout at the onset of monsoon every year. A good green yield can be harvested every year and up to five-six years from the same tubers or plants. This small, cute, spiny fruit is always used as a vegetable for cooking. It may look spiny but it is so soft to the touch that it won’t hurt your fingers!
It is green when unripe and will turn yellow when mature. The seeds are white and soft but it will turn dark brown and hard when ripe. As in most fruits used as vegetables, always get those still in the green stage.
It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It reminds one of a cross between a bitter zucchini, okra and a cucumber. But, the texture is denser and a bit tougher. When fried, it reminds one of fried okra with none of the slime.
Consumption of spine gourd activates the pancreas and controls the level of sugar. Its green fruits contain 12-14 percent protein.