Shark’s fins and Angel’s hair

This year I have been a member of the heritage seed library (again), and and one of the seeds I selected to grow was ‘shark’s fin melon’.  I didn’t have many seeds and succeeded in transplanting three plants into the polytunnel.  Two were near the top door, and one I planted with the courgettes near the other end.  I had some netting (beach gleanings) for the two at the top to climb up, which they did quite happily, and the other was just left to scramble over the ground.  The growing tips are rather beautiful, with spiralling tendrils, and the vine is still punctuated now by enormous golden flowers.

It seems that the plant is supposed to be self fertile, although I deliberately spread pollen between the different plants and still didn’t get many fruit to develop.  There is a total of five fruits between the three plants, although these are still producing female flowers.  The fruit are enormous, dark green with white stripes, about the size of a football, but slightly elongated.  I discovered also last week that the tendrils aren’t able to support the full weight of the fruit as we had a minor collapse of part of the vine near the door.  Most of the other fruit I had already supported, and one is sitting on the ground.

supporting fruit
Fruit supported by hanging basket frame

 

Doing a bit of research recently, it seems that shark’s fin melon has many other names.  If I had known it was ‘malabar gourd’, I could have looked it up in Simon Hickmott’s unusual vegetable book.  My favourite alternative name is ‘Angel’s hair’.  According to wikipedia its latin name is Cucurbita ficifolia and as well as the fruit, the seeds, and leaves are also edible see also https://isustainabilityproject.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/cooking-squash-leaves/ and http://jenniferskitchen.com/2017/05/can-you-eat-squash-leaves.html . I haven’t got round to trying the leaves yet.  These also grow enormous and give it one of it’s other names : fig leaf gourd.

My vegan friend was staying with me last week, so I enlisted her help in trying the first fruit.  Since once ripe the fruit should keep well, we decided to try one that was not the first to develop, to give the others the best chance of ripening to store.  Even so it weighed in at nearly 4kg!  Since it was quite young, the rind had not fully hardened, and we were able to cut it with a strong knife without too much trouble.  The large seeds were also still white and tender when cooked.  Half of it made a huge pan of vegan ‘shark’s fin soup’ which I thought would be amusing, and was certainly tasty!

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The other half we roasted in the oven, whilst the soup was cooking on the top.  We discovered that the flesh does indeed consist of stringy glass noodles (hence ‘Angel’s hair’).  These survived being reheated and made a great base for a simple lunch with (vegan) pesto, sundried tomatoes and sweetcorn.  I’ve put a little sample of noodles in the freezer to see whether they retain their noodley form on defrosting, since there is a lot of squash between our normal two person household!

noodles n pesto s
Angel’s hair

The other interesting titbit, is that in warmer climes the plant is perennial, and may even survive light frosts!  This could be an interesting candidate for my perennial polytunnel, making good use of the third dimension!

happy climbing
Flying ‘fig-leaves’

 

10 thoughts on “Shark’s fins and Angel’s hair

  1. What is the ‘third dimension’?

    Sounds like you’ve had an amazing success with the squash. If only I had the room (my daughter has requested a return to Jack o’ Lanterns next year, so no room for anymore with them and butternut squash).

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    1. Oh, up of course! See they’ve happily found the crop bars and training wires above my head, so although rampant, don’t take up much growing space.
      I gather that some get much better fruit set than I have done, I’m not sure why though….I’m generally happy to get anything to harvest. It always seems like magic.

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  2. And last but not least, most plants are probably perennial in the right setting, wouldn’t you say? It makes sense to grow and remain rather than die and hope your babies survive all the time.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see if you can keep your shark’s fin going.

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    1. I think that many annual’s just die after flowering (job done) I don’t know whether they all would continue given the right conditions if stopped flowering…I’ll let you know how the squash vines do over the winter, I’ll have to do a bit of research. I was thinking of cutting them back to a stump after the first frosts and covering the base with straw or shredded paper to insulate them.

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