Tindora – the Ivy Gourd
I have perused many Indian cookery books over the years, but I had never heard of Tindora until I came across it by chance in my local supermarket. I had to research it, of course, and discovered that the vegetable is quite widely used in the cuisines of Southern India. It is still not easy to come by in the West, even now, but it is well worth trying if you get the chance.
What is Tindora?
Tindora is the fruit of a tropical vine native to India, the Philippines, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and the Northern Territories of Australia. Though botanically a fruit, it is used as a vegetable, most commonly in the Southern States of India.
It is also known as the ‘Ivy Gourd’ but, as you can see, there is less a gourd-like appearance to them than resemblance to little cucumbers. Indeed, at a number of web-sites I have visited, the word ‘gherkin’ used to describe them.
I am not sure how easy it is to tell from my photographs, but each fruit is about two to three fingers in length and about the thickness of a man’s index finger or thumb. They have a pretty green colour, as you can see, but apparently they take on a red-color as they age and are not supposed to be good to eat at that point.
Tindora is also known as the ‘Scarlet Gourd’, and I suppose this refers to the red interior of the flesh that sometimes occurs, as I have not seen any the were scarlet in color on the outside. In the above picture, you can see a couple that have a definite red color on the inside around the seeds.
I have actually read a few web-pages that claimed that people who eat Tindora when they are red can suffer ‘brain-death’ (whatever that means exactly) whilst other sites say that people can and do eat them in this state without any noticeable effect. This would, of course, beg the question as to what these people were like *before* they ate the red-fleshed fruit!
Anyway, I only came across a few individuals that had a reddish interior and, while I am not convinced of some of what I have read about the dangers, out of an abundance of caution, I used only those without any hint of redness.
What does Tindora Taste Like?
Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on this count. Wikipedia mentions that many people describe the taste as being like Bitter Melon, and some sites are adamant that the fruit is not good when eaten raw. Happily, I discovered that both Wikipedia and the aforementioned sites are wrong.
Biting into the raw fruit was very like biting into a cucumber but not quite as succulent. There was no bitterness, as I say, but there was also no sweetness at all. If pressed, I would have to say that the taste experience was somewhere between cucumber and watermelon rind. When cooked, the taste was not markedly different, although the texture, as one might expect, was softer.
Recipes with Tindora
Tindora is amenable to a variety of cooking methods but many recipes rely on frying, in one form or another. Quite a few employ shallow-frying methods along with a variety of spice blends to produce dry or ‘wet’ curry type side-dishes, while in some recipes, the Tindora are deep-fried, with batter or otherwise, and served as appetizers, snacks, or as accompaniments for rice.
Some example preparations include the following:
Here, in this Tindora Masala dish, Tindora is shallow-fried with Chili, Peanuts and Cumin for a spicy appetizer or side-dish.
These Tindora Pakora consist of the whole Tindora being split, stuffed with Chili Pickle and deep-fried in a batter of Chickpea Flour (Besan), with various spices.