What is kovakkai?
‘Kovakkai’ refers to the ivy gourd which also known as gherkin, baby watermelon, or little gourd in some areas of the world. This particular plant or weed is considered a vegetable in many parts of Asia and the Pacific region. The scientific name of this plant is ‘coccinia grandis,’ and aside from ‘kovakkai,’ some people in different areas around the world call it by a host of different names including ‘kunduri,’ ‘tendli,’ and ‘dondakaaya’ among others.
As a vegetable, the shoots and fruit of the kovakkai plant are used for a variety of recipes. Many people also eat kovakkai because of its various nutrients and health benefits. The kovakkai fruit is known to have essential vitamins like A and C and health-enhancing minerals like beta-carotene. This particular mineral is a known nutrient that helps fight early aging and cancer. Vitamin A is essential for good eyesight while Vitamin C is good in terms of preventing illnesses like the common cold and flu. Some people also eat kovakkai because it is part of their traditional cuisine. In India, for example, kovakkai is commonly used as part of the ingredients of curry-based recipes. Countries in Southeast Asia also use kovakkai when preparing various dishes.
With its reputation as a health food, kovakkai can also be found in various backyard gardens in many parts of Asia. Traditionally, this particular plant is also used as a form of medicine especially in the treatment of conditions like fever, leprosy, and common respiratory problems. The fruit of the kovakkai plant is also known to have anti-histamine properties and so is a great medicine for those with allergies, for example. There are also studies that suggest kovakkai has beneficial effects for people with diabetes as it contains compounds that help regulate sugar levels. The beta carotene content of kovakkai is also often highlighted as a good nutrient in fighting against free radicals or toxins in the body.