Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – How conducive are some non-native, Asian vegetables to the American palate? University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Department of Agriculture faculty and students sought to answer this question at a recent food-sampling event that featured exotic recipes made from bitter melon, bottle gourd and chili pepper grown on campus.
The event was a collaboration of undergraduate and graduate lab students at the Department of Agriculture, under the direction of Dr. M. Jalaluddin. professor of agriculture-agronomy, and Dr. Jaheon Koo, associate professor of regulatory science and certified food scientist.
Department of Agriculture faculty, staff and students sampled dishes such as sautéed bottle gourd, bottle gourd pancake, bitter melon soup with chicken or beef and bitter melon chips, which were prepared at the UAPB Experimental Kitchen. They also had a glimpse of what the uncommon vegetables look like in their uncooked forms – bottle gourd, for instance, is an over-sized, green gourd that can weigh between three and 30 pounds.
After tasting the unfamiliar foods, attendees were polled as to which dishes they liked the most. A sweet bottle gourd dessert took top marks (for the winning recipe, see below), followed by bottle gourd soup and sautéed bottle gourd. Dishes made from bitter melon scored lower due to the fruit’s bitter flavor.
“These vegetables are healthy and beneficial due to their medicinal properties,” he said. “However, because of their distinct and strong or bitter flavor, extensive development of recipes is necessary to make this produce appeal to the American public.”
The recipes used for the event were found online and modified to better suit American preferences. Dr. Koo, who has been involved with the development of value-added fruit and vegetable products over 10 years, said his lab group will continue to work on new product development.
Shaila Nabi, research assistant for the UAPB Department of Agriculture, said these vegetables, which are popular in South Asia, South America and some African countries, can be cultivated in Arkansas.
“These crops are very adaptable to Arkansas’ soil and summer season,” she said. “If we can popularize them among local farmers, it could help with the food shortage in the Delta region.”
Ms. Nabi said undergraduate students of agriculture grow these vegetables from seed to learn about all agronomic and farm management operations, as well as seed management.
Sweet bottle gourd recipe
- 4 tablespoons condensed milk
- ½ cup of ghee or butter
- 4 cups grated bottle gourd
- 5 chopped cashew nuts
- 5 chopped almonds
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- Cardamom powder to taste
- Heat the butter in a pan. Add cashews and almonds and fry until golden brown.
- Add the grated bottle gourd and sauté for 5-6 minutes.
- Add the condensed milk and cook until the bottle gourd is soft.
- Stir continuously until the mixture is thick
- Sprinkle with cardamom powder.