Benincasa hispida

Kundol- winter melon or winter squash, tong qua

Kundol belongs to the gourd family. It has hairy skin and thicker than the summer squash and can be kept for winter for a longer period of time.

I remember how my grandma picks them and removes the thick skin and then she cuts them into bite size pieces and soak them in sugar syrup with lime on it (for preservative I suppose) and then dry them in the sun. I forgot how many days but after it has been dried we have an instant sugary snack!

Kundol is much like a big watermelon, and oblong in shape. It is a heavy vegetable (20 lbs. or more) so you need a very secured trellis for it to trail on. It is easy for us to do the trellising in the Philippines because of the abundance of bamboo and the other natural materials we need. You can start it from seeds and then train them on the trellis. It grows vigorously as a vine and has big green fuzzy leaves. The flowers are yellow and needs to be pollinated by bees or you can hand pollinate. It needs full sun and lots of moisture. Amending the soil with compost is also a must in order for it to thrive. A sprinkling of organic fertilizer is also advisable especially when you see the fruit forming. Make sure the middle number of the fertilizer is higher to increase your yield. I remember my Uncle wraps the fruits in newspaper to protect from pests that might attack them. Pick fruits as soon as they are ready or they will form seeds and the flesh will be fibrous. My Chinese friends use the squash in soups and also sweet filling for pastry we call “hopia”, a Filipino savory snack.

I have been seeing this vegetable in the markets here in Hawaii and it brings back a lot of good memories of my childhood in my hometown.