We seem to have exhausted the brainpower of blog-readers the last couple of weeks; once again, nobody carried off first prize in our WTF is IT??!! contest.
The mysterious vegetable in question was the dondakaya, also known as the "ivy gourd," a little bugger that looks like a miniature cucumber. Cut open and sampled raw, it tastes just slightly sour, like an already pickled pickle.
But it took me a while to figure that out. It didn't help that the girl at the market had told me these were "pepinos," which, depending on your interpretation, either just means "cucumber" or refers to a tiny mexican melon that's round with purple stripes and is evidently great for making sorbets.
Once I'd ruled that out, I temporarily misidentified these as Mexican Sour Gherkins, another miniature veg that's all the rage with Manhattan chefs these days ("Is it an exceptionally small cucumber or the world’s cutest watermelon?" the Times muses.) But the match wasn't exact.
Then I stumbled upon Kalva's exceptionally charming blog, Curry in Kadai, where she talks about "dondi," her favorite childhood vegetable. Eureka.
Kalva likes them simply sliced and fried with garlic chili powder (or maybe a little coconut) and served over rice. Here's a more complicated recipe making it into curry.
And like another strange Indian vegetable we looked at earlier...
...the ivy gourd is supposed to be very good for diabetics because of its ability to regulate blood sugar:
According to a study published in a 1998 issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, the mechanism for diabetes control is that ivy gourd may suppress the activity of certain enzymes involved in glucose production, such as G-6-phosphatase.
You med/sci dweebs can read more here.
And don't get any ideas about planting the seeds of your little dondakaya. It's listed as an invasive "problem plant" by the US Army corps. You can watch a ***scaaaary*** video of the ivy gourd vine smothering an entire continent here.
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