Kumbalanga is a general term used for pumpkin and ash gourd in Kerala. However, pumpkin is referred to as Mathan kumbalam and ash gourd as Ilavan Kumbalam.
Ilavan (ash gourd) was once an integral part of most Malayalees’ diet. Even today, many vegetable farmers and cultivators maintain this creeper. Off late, lot of hybrid variety is being pumped into the market.
Medicinal Ash Gourd – Vaidya Kumbalanga and Nei Kumbalam all are the same
Ash gourd is still highly regarded for it’s medicinal qualities. Kumbalanga is excellent for most stomach related disorders since it has a cooling effect. It is effective in regulating pH levels in the stomach which stabilizes blood pressure (major cause of other diseases).
Ney kumbalanga (vaidya kumbalanga) – also known as winter melon / white melon in other parts of the world – is a disappearing vegetable, at least in Kerala, like few of the other vegetables. It grows slowly in humus rich soil. Each gourd weighs around 500gms to 1 kg, and is generally ovoid (shape of an egg). It is also called as Petha in Hindi, Budagumbala in Kannada, Poosini kai in Tamil and Boodida gummadi in Telugu.
It could be seen almost everywhere until a few years ago. Nei Kumbalam was mostly purchased by ayurvedic vaidyars in bulk to make “Kooshmanda Rasayana” – a traditional pumpkin jam. It’s benefits included general well being, increased strength and increased weight. It is considered extremely good to increase body mass because it affects the nervous system. It develops and strengths nerves. It is also good for respiratory disorders. Along with increasing appetite and well being of body it is also a good laxative, which makes it an ideal supplement.
Most ones you find in ayurvedic shops, even some of the famous and reputed ones, will not give desired results since today commercially grown large pumpkins are used to make this rasayana along with other products of questionable purity.
How to make Kooshmanda Rasayana
What I love about this gourd is it can be stored in normal conditions for up to 3 years without rotting. It should play an integral part in solving the food security issue wouldn’t you think? No hi-tech storage required. Just a normal store room. It has a hard outer shell. Commercially grown ones with even minimal fertilizer will begin decaying sooner.
How to germinate Pumpkin seeds.
- Seeds germinate within 10 to 15 days in normal conditions.
- To speed up the process you can soak seeds in water for 6 hours.
- Then tie it in cotton cloth and then bury the seeds on top most part of the soil and keep a stone 10 times the weight of seeds altogether.
- Keep it moist, check after 2 days seeds would have split open. Ready for planting.
If planting directly, add little ash or lime powder. So that pest doesn’t damage the seeds. (You have to prepare the planting bed at least 3 to 6 days prior to planting so that lime powder doesn’t interfere in the growth of seed and also the microbes do their work well in advance).
The plant starts to flower after 2 months and initially male flowers can be seen in abundance. Wait for couple of more days. Female flowers will emerge and fruit setting will begin.
Let the vine dry out completely and then harvest. Don’t worry, fruits will not fall off it. Harvest pumpkin without it falling. Now you are ready to store the pumpkins for upto 3 years.
In the bygone days, elephant’s legs were tied using ney kumbalam vine interwoven with kovor nar. Kovor nar is the same vine used by Nilgiri honey hunter tribe to hang on the cliffs for honey extraction.