How to Prep and Store Sponge Gourd 'Hechima'

Hechima

What you see on the label at the Farmer's Market:
Kanji: 糸瓜
Hiragana: へちま
Katakana: ヘチマ
Seasonal Harvesting Period: Summer

The Basics:

Hechima, or sponge gourd, is more commonly seen in your shower. Yes, not your kitchen, the shower or bathtub. Sponge gourd is hardly eaten outside of Okinawa, but rather grown to manufacture loofahs.

Hechima, or na-be-ra in Okinawan language, is considered a soul food in Okinawa. While many children detest hechima, just like their western counterparts detest broccoli, many grow up to love and appreciate the taste of hechima later on. 

It looks similar to a cucumber or zucchini in size and shape. It is full of water which is an important factor to keep in mind when cooking.

However, hechima is not like a cucumber due to the fact you cannot eat it raw. Unless you have yourself the 'salad hechima' variety. Salad hechima can be prepared and eaten raw, often in salads hence its name.

When looking to buy hechima at the market, look for one that has a nice, even green color. If it is glossy and feels hard, it is about to ripen and best to bring home. Do not pick one that has water leaking, feels squishy, or smells strange.

Nutritional Info:

1 Gourd: 40kcal (per 250g or one gourd), vitamin C (12.5mg), vitamin E (0.75g), calcium (35mg), magnesium (30mg), iron (0.75g)

Common ailments it is helpful towards: indigestion, constipation, dull skin, detoxification, poor blood circulation, colds, cough, heat fatigue, obestiy prevention, high cholesterol

*Hechima is a vegetable that is mostly water and most suitable for dieting. 

Hechima is effective for intestinal regulation due to the dietary fiber and water content. It helps intestinal function, improves bowel movements, and promotes beautiful, healthy skin. It is said that the effects of vitamin K and potassium, which are especially high in this veggie, prevent lifestyle-related diseases, detoxify, promote blood circulation, and suppress cough and sputum. Since it contains a good balance of vitamins and minerals, it is said to be effective in preventing heat fatigue.

In addition, the component saponin contained in hechima is known to be effective in removing cholesterol and preventing obesity, as well as improving blood flow, preventing arteriosclerosis and boosting immunity. Saponin is also good for skin health.

How to Wash and Cut:

Wash the vegetable well all over in the sink. Do not mind any dark spots that don't go away as these are normal.

You can eat the skin, but it is pretty tough. Recipes typically call for you to lightly peel the vegetable and cut it into cubes or round slices. You do not need to remove the seeds inside. Do not peel the skin off completely. This vegetable gets very limp when cooking, but the skin keeps it from falling apart.

*It is recommended to use hechima in boiled dishes, soups, or fried dishes, due to the excess amount of water that is secreted when cooking.

How To Store:

Hechima can be stored at room temperature for just a few days. It typically lasts a week in the fridge.

Wrap a whole hechima in newspaper and store it in the vegetable compartment of your fridge or a cool, but not too cold, area of the fridge. If there is some left over after you cut it, first remove any excess water, wrap it in a paper towel, further wrap it in newspaper, and store it in the refrigerator. It will last about 4 days.

Hechima cannot be frozen. If hechima is cut and frozen, all that will be left is chewy fiber and not much tastiness. Try to cut and use all of it as soon as possible!

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