' Coccinia grandis, the ivy gourd, also known as baby watermelon, little gourd, gentleman's toes, or sometimes inaccurately identified as gherkin, is a tropical vine. It is also known as Cephalandra indica and Coccinia indica. Other names include kundroo in Hindi, tondli in Marathi, thondekayi in Kannada, dondakaya in Telugu, kovaykka in Malayalam, and kovaikkai in Tamil.
Its native range extends from Africa to Asia, including India, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, eastern Papua New Guinea, and the Northern Territories, Australia. Its documented introduced range includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Saipan, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Seeds or fragments of the vine can be relocated and lead to viable offspring. This can occur when humans transport organic debris or equipment containing C. grandis. Once the ivy gourd is established, it is presumably spread by birds, rats, and other mammals. In Hawaii, the fruit may be dispersed by pigs. Long-distance dispersal is most commonly carried out by humans due to its culinary uses or by mistake.
Regarded as very invasive and on the Hawaii State Noxious Weed List, ivy gourd can grow up to four inches per day. It grows in dense blankets, shading other plants from sunlight and highjacking nutrients, effectively killing vegetation underneath. It was introduced to Hawaii as a backyard food crop. It is sometimes tolerated along garden fences and other outdoor features because of its attractive white flowers. It has escaped to become a vigorous pest in Hawaii, Florida, Australia, and Texas.
Both physical and chemical recommendations are made for control of the ivy gourd. It is very difficult to control this plant physically except by bagging fruits. Hand-harvesting normally does not kill the plant, but rather breaks the vine blankets into smaller pieces and the plant is able to re-establish when it touches the ground. These methods can make the infestation worse and further the need for more rigorous control methods. Picking the fruit and placing them in plastic bags can help decrease the seed bank present with the soil. When using chemical controls, that ivy gourd responded well to a thin-lined bark application of 100% Garlon 4 (triclopyr), leaving plants in place so as not to translocate the herbicide or spread the pest. It is applied multiple times until the vine dies. In Hawaii, several species of insect have been introduced with the purpose of being a biocontrol. Two weevils, Acythopeus burkhartorum and A. cocciniae, were introduced by the Department of Agriculture to Oahu and Hawaii. African vine moths (Melittia oedipus) were also released onto Oahu and Maui. On the island of Maui, the A. cocciniae apparently is established and damaging leaves. The larvae feed on the plant and the adults chew holes in the leaves. The moth has yet to appear successful in its purpose.
In traditional medicine, fruits have been used to treat leprosy, fever, asthma, bronchitis, and jaundice. The fruit possesses mast cell-stabilizing, antianaphylactic, and antihistaminic potential. In Bangladesh, the roots are used to treat osteoarthritis and joint pain. A paste made of leaves is applied to the skin to treat scabies.
Ivy gourd extracts and other forms of the plant can be purchased online and in health food stores. These products are claimed to help regulate blood sugar levels. Some research supports that compounds in the plant inhibit glucose-6-phosphatase. Glucose-6-phosphatase is one of the key liver enzymes involved in regulating sugar metabolism. Therefore, ivy gourd is sometimes recommended for diabetic patients. Although these claims have not been supported, a fair amount of research on the medicinal properties of this plant are focusing on its use as an antioxidant, antihypoglycemic agent, immune system modulator, etc. Some countries in Asia, such as Thailand, prepare traditional tonic-like drinks for medicinal purposes.
A variety of recipes from all over the world list rashmato, the fruit, as the main ingredient. They are best when cooked, and are often compared to bitter melon. The fruit is commonly eaten in Indian cuisine. People of Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries also consume the fruit and leaves. In Thai cuisine, it is one of the ingredients of the kaeng khae curry. Cultivation of rashmati in home gardens has been encouraged in Thailand due to it being a good source of several micronutrients, including vitamins A and C.
In India, it is eaten as a curry, by deep-frying it along with spices, stuffing it with masala and sauteing it, or boiling it first in a pressure cooker and then frying it. It is also used in sambar, a vegetable and lentil-based soup.
- Michel H. Porcher (2006). Sorting Coccinia names[dead link]
- Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (2003). "Invasive plant species: Coccinia grandis". Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- NMC Crees (1997). "Scarlet Gourd in Saipan". Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Linney, G. (1986). "Coccinia grandis (L.) Voight: A new cucurbitaceous weed in Hawai'i". Hawaii Botanical Society Newsletter 25 (1): 3–5.
- Taur D.J., Patil R.Y.,"Mast cell stabilizing, antianaphylactic and antihistaminic activity of Coccinia grandis fruits in asthma". Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines. 9 (5) (pp 359-362), 2011.
- Ethnomedicinal survey of medicinal plants used by folk medical practitioners in four different villages of Gazipur District, Bangladesh
- Shibib, BA; Khan, LA; Rahman, R (May 15). "Hypoglycemic activity of Coccinia indica and Momordica charantia in diabetic rats: depression of the hepatic gluconeogenic enzymes glucose-6-phosphatase and fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase and elevation of both liver and red-cell shunt enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase". Biochem J. 292 (Pt 1): 267–270. PMC 113499. Check date values in:
- Kaeng Khae Kai (Katurai Chilli Soup with Chicken)
- Artemis P. Simopoulos and C. Gopalan, ed. (2004), Plants in Human Health and Nutrition Policy, Karger Publishers, ISBN 3-8055-7554-8
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Coccinia grandis.|
- Coccinia grandis (L.) Voigt (ivy gourd) - USDA plants
- Information at the University of Hawai'i
- Image at FoodWeb, University of Birmingham, UK
- Multilingual taxonomic information from the University of Melbourne
- Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. (2014). "Coccinia grandis". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.