Hairy Squash (節瓜)
Originating from the Dominican Republic, the hairy squash has become a firm favourite within Chinese cuisine and is sometimes known as a ‘fuzzy melon’ or ‘Tseet gwa’ in Chinese. Hairy squashes are identifiable by their thin layer of fine hairs on the exterior of the thick skin. This skin is edible, however, the hairs should be removed. The overall skin is quite blotchy in appearance. Hairy squashes can grow to around 6-8 inches long, and 1 ½ – 2 inches in diameter, growing on a medium sized vine. Although visually similar to a zucchini, the hairy squash is not actually a squash but a gourd, and is related to another Chinese favourite – the winter melon. The inside of the hairy squash is white, and tender in texture.
The hairy squash is available throughout the year, but is most prolific in the warm seasons from late spring right into autumn. One of the attractions of the hairy squash is that the mature squash can be stored up to two months, whilst still maintaining relative freshness.
There are a variety of ways in which the hairy squash can be cooked and eaten. To start, scrub the hairy squash and trim the stem and blossom ends. Remove the hairs from the skin by using the back of a paring knife. You can keep the skin on or peel as desired. Principally, the hairy squash acts as a good absorber within soups or other dishes, enhancing the flavours of the other foods in the dish. It can be used within stir-fries or soups, and it can be steamed or filled. This is an incredible flexible vegetable, and can be enjoyed in a assortment of ways.