How many of you have grown Asian veggies in the past, or are intending to put some in your garden this year? I’ve already got seed for some Asian greens: mizuna, komatsuna, hu hsien (amaranth), tatsoi, and mibuna, and I’m excited to try all of these crops for the first time! One plant I don’t have room for is the moqua or hairy squash – but our grocery store has just started bringing them in, so I was able to do a taste-test for the first time a few weeks ago.
Looking a bit like a cucumber or zucchini, but covered in fuzz, you use moqua like a zucchini in stir fries, soups, stews – you name it, it’s very versatile, taking on the flavour of whatever you cook it in. (Not sure about chocolate chip moqua cake, but I’m game to try!). It’s often stuffed with tiny shrimp or rice or microgreens and served with a little flavoured sauce on the side, for dipping. You have to peel moqua first, as the fur it’s covered in may not be pleasurable to the palate. 😉 I conjured up a veggie stir fry with my moqua, adding a garlicky-ginger-sesame sauce and some rice noodles…it makes me hungry just to think back on it.
Growing moqua sounds fairly easy and relatively problem-free, but I may have a bit of an issue with harvesting it in Calgary, given our average frost-free period of 114 days. It is suggested that moqua might be ready in as early as 80 days, but if it takes as long as the upper range of 160, well…you know. Moqua (Benincasa hispida var. chiehgua) is a cucurbit, in the same family as cucumbers, kabocha, watermelons, pumpkins, and luffa (yes, THAT luffa). In our chilly climate, the best way to grow most cucurbits, including moqua, is to start them indoors from seed and transplant out once the weather becomes suitable for planting (in July or thereabouts…I exaggerate, but only slightly). Moqua is a variety of another Chinese veggie, the winter melon or wax gourd (Benincasa hispida), and although it will not get as large as the winter melon, which can top out at 30 pounds and must be grown on the ground to support its weight, it shares similar characteristics. Unlike winter melon, however, moqua is harvested when immature, before the pubescent fruit becomes is covered in a white waxy coating and becomes bitter tasting.
Is there anyone out there growing moqua? What are your favourite dishes to make with it?