Round Opo Squash
Inventory, lb : 0
Round Opo squashes widely vary in size, ranging from 5 to 30 centimeters in diameter, and generally have an oval to round appearance with a bulbous center, tapering slightly to curved edges at the top and bottom. The squash’s skin is smooth, semi-thick, and sometimes tough, depending on growing conditions, and varies in color from solid light to dark green or green with mottled stripes and blotches. Underneath the surface, the white to ivory flesh is firm, crisp, spongy, and succulent, encasing many light brown seeds. Round Opo squashes are generally less tender than elongated, cylindrical opo varieties. The seeds in young squashes are edible, while more mature seeds develop a rectangular shape and a hard surface, becoming unpleasant and unpalatable. Round Opo squashes have a mild, subtly sweet, and vegetal flavor reminiscent of zucchini. In addition to the squashes, the young stems and tendrils are edible. The leaves are covered in soft hairs as they mature and release a musky aroma if crushed.
Round Opo squashes are available year-round, with a peak season in the summer through early fall.
Round Opo squashes, botanically classified as Lagenaria siceraria, are fruits of a tropical, fast-growing creeping vine belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. Traditionally, vines of most opo squashes climb by nature and are grown on trellises, walls, and fences, allowing the fruits to hang from the vines, creating an elongated shape. Round Opo squashes are mainly cultivated on the ground, developing a more round and compressed appearance, and the fruits mature around 75 days after planting. Opo squashes widely vary in appearance and size, depending on their growing environment, and intercross with other squashes freely, adding to the variation. The fruits are also marketed by their general name rather than varietal name and are often defined by their shape. Though they are called a squash, Round Opo squashes are actually a type of gourd and are known by several other names, including Round Calabash gourd, Round Bottle gourd, and Round Lauki. Round Opo squashes are harvested young for use in culinary preparations, prepared similarly to summer squash, typically chopped fresh or cooked as a versatile ingredient. Mature Round Opo squashes are dried and used as a household serving vessel or decorative container.
Round Opo squashes are an excellent source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, a good source of folate to develop red blood cells, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation, and other B vitamins. The squashes also provide lower amounts of calcium to protect bones and teeth, iron to produce the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, and additional nutrients, including zinc, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. In traditional medicines throughout Asia, opo squashes are often associated with health and are consumed to clear heat from the body and cleanse the digestive tract. Mature opo squashes are also dried and used as a carrying vessel for medicinal ingredients, powders, and tinctures among natural practitioners in Asia.
Round Opo squashes have a mild vegetal flavor well suited for fresh and cooked preparations. It is important to note that young opo squashes are the preferred version used in culinary dishes, and the squashes can be prepared similarly to zucchini. Depending on preference, Round Opo squashes can be eaten raw, with or without the skin, and are commonly chopped into salads, mixed into fresh vegetable side dishes, or sliced and served with dips. The squashes can also be diced and tossed into soups, stews, and curries, holding their shape well when heated, or they can be stir-fried, sauteed as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fried into tempura. In India, opo squashes are popularly simmered with ghee, milk, and sugar to make Lauki halwa, or they can be cooked into Lauki channa dal, a curry-like dish served in a gravy. They can also be pureed, roasted, shredded, and baked into muffins or bread, or grilled for a smokey flavor. In addition to the young squashes, some cultures use more mature squashes, typically roasting or incorporating into soups. The squash’s flesh can also be dried into strips for medicinal use. Round Opo squashes pair well with seafood such as shrimp, crab, white fish, and scallops, mushrooms, bell peppers, spring onions, garlic, ginger, herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil, and meats including duck, poultry, beef, and pork. Whole, unopened Round Opo squashes will keep 2 to 3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Small opo squashes were traditionally dried and used as cricket cages in China. The squashes, also known as a type of gourd, were naturally dried by hanging in the air or were buried in sand and heated to create a hard, smooth, and tough container. These dried gourds could be lacquered, waxed, and painted to become a decorative container, and the smaller round gourds were used during the Tang Dynasty, spanning 618 to 907 CE, to house crickets. Each fall, it was customary for families to gather crickets and keep them in the dried gourds throughout the winter. Crickets were often kept as pets in China and were valued for their musical nature. When the crickets chirped, the gourd also became an instrument to amplify their sound, and the cricket’s “song” was used as soothing background noise at nighttime for improved sleep. The smaller dried gourds also allowed the crickets to be portable, carried on journeys, and transported from room to room.
Round Opo squashes are descendants of squash varieties native to Africa that have been growing wild since ancient times. The squashes were carried with humans throughout the continent in the early ages and were used as water and food carrying vessels. Experts believe some dried squashes may have also been transported across the oceans by naturally floating, as the seeds can survive for over 200 days inside the fruits. These ocean squashes eventually led to the seeds being planted throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America, and squash remains have been discovered in Mexico that can be traced to sometime between 7000 to 5500 BCE. Squash seeds were also believed to have been carried over the Bering Strait. Over time, opo squashes were spread worldwide, thriving in tropical to subtropical climates with long, warm, growing seasons. Many varieties of opo squashes have been bred with extensive cultivation, and Round Opo squashes became a favored variation for home garden planting. Today Round opo squashes can be found in Asia, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas and are commercially cultivated, grown in home gardens, or found in the wild.
Recipes that include Round Opo Squash. One is easiest, three is harder.
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Near Davie, Florida, United States
About 366 days ago, 1/28/22