Trichosanthes cucumerina L. 1753, commonly known as Snake Gourd or Serpent Gourd, in Afica called Chichinga and in India Padwal, is a tropical and subtropical, annual vine.

With the beginning of the rainy season, with its heavy monsoon rainstorms, the tropical nature shows its power and plants spring up. A few years ago, our tropical garden in Chiang Mai, North Thailand, was overgrown by all kinds of plants and I decided to pull out, what I classified as weeds. My Thai boys stopped me immediatly, that`s all edible and very healthy as well, they interfered. So we started a research to identify all that tropical vines. Mother nature presented us butterfly peas (Clitoria ternatea), snake gourds (Trichosanthes cucumerina) and bitter gourds (Momordica charantia) and we`ve been more than impressed about the medical use of that plants. It would have been an iniquity to kill that useful plants. Just a few days ago I found an unknown vegetable at our local Thai Market, a very long, thin cucumber-like fruit. That`s a snake gourd, clarified my regular veggie dealer. Snake gourd fruits, which has been offered in the market had a length of about 50 cm, some cultivars and hybrids can reach lengths up to 1,50 meters.

Our wild snake gourds produce small fruits, with a length of just about 15 cm. Serpent Gourds are native to South and South-East Asia, but nowadys widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries around the world. Leaves, tendrils and of course the fruits are eaten as vegetables. All parts of the tropical vine are used in natural medicine. The tropical vine requires warm to hot temperatures and climbing support, like a trellis, but is considered as an easy to grow plant. Fruits get longer, if they have the chance to hang down.

Flower Photography © Orchids
Image: Snake Gourd Flower (Trichosanthes cucumerina)

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