The Ivy gourd is a perennial plant that has a high nutritional and medicinal value. It belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. The female and male plants are different. This means that the plant is grown from the stem cuttings of the female plant.
Grow both the female and male plants and both are required for fruit production. The semi-hard stem cuttings used for propagation should be at least 20 cm long with a thickness of 2-3 inches. The cutting should also bear a few leaves.
It is the regional varieties of the ivy gourd that are still in demand. Studies are still underway to produce high yielding genetically enhanced varieties of the ivy gourd.
The ivy gourd being a resilient plant, has a good yield and is highly resistant to diseases. There are different varieties of the plant is available in the market. Although the ivy gourd can be planted during any season of the year as long as irrigation is not a problem, the ideal time for planting it is during May, June, July and February.
The ivy gourd or baby watermelon can be cultivated in large scale or in the backyard of your home. Plant the stem cutting in a hole that is 1 feet deep without any stagnant water. If you plan on a large scale ivy gourd farm, make sure there is a minimum distance of 2 m between each stem cutting.
Mix some soil, compost and a bit of sand in the hole before planting the shoot. Use 100 grams of fertilizer is the ratio 7:10:5, for each hole. The ivy gourd will produce fruits even in the absence of fertilizers. You can also use bio fertilizers like manure, goat droppings or Veppin Pinnakku’ (neem seed cakes). It is best to pour the fertilizer at a distance of 40 cm from the root of the plant. Water immediately after fertilizing the farm.
The plants will flower after 45-60 days from planting them. The fruits can be plucked after 40 days. The fruits will lose their distinctive taste once they ripen.
The ivy gourd is a climber, so build a trellis for the plant to grow on. Alternatively, you can grow them on the terrace of your home, in wide pots. Once the plants start climbing, you can build a trellis or tie ropes for the vines to climb on. This will also act as a cool shaded sit-out on warm, summer evenings. The ivy gourd can also be grown on the fence of your backyard. Once the yield starts decreasing, prune the plant. Pruning should be done during March or April.
Covering the freshly planted stem-cutting with dry leaves is an excellent way of propagating growth. This is increase the yield of the plant tenfold. If the plants stop yielding fruits altogether, it is time t plant new stem cuttings.
Ivy gourds are not easily (or usually) affected by diseases or pests. But some aphids, whiteflies, mites and thrips are known to infect the plant. The infected portion of these plants should be cut and burned.
The ivy gourd fruit can be used raw in salads, cooked in curries and even pickled and preserved. The Kerala Agricultural University has developed special methods to pickle ivy gourds.
The medicinal properties of ivy gourd include curative properties for diabetes, blood pressure, bronchitis, etc. Rubbing the crushed pulp of ivy gourd on your head is believed to reduce hair fall and dandruff. Rubbing the crushed paste of ivy gourd leaves on your forehead will rid you of headaches – even severe ones.