Upo or Long gourd (Lagenaria Siceraria) belongs to the family of cucurbits. The gourd had been used primarily as a water container. There are different shapes and sizes to choose from. Cucuzzi is an Italian long gourd that also belongs to the same family. Some are long and gnarly that they call it snake gourd. The inside of the “upo” is white with seeds inside. It is best to harvest the squash when the seeds are still soft and immature. The skin can be green or variegated like the one in the picture. I prefer this variegated one but it seems hard to find the seeds now. The most popular one especially in Hawaii is the short type with plain light green colored skin.
Upo is one of my favorite vegetables. It is sweet and juicy like cucumber but you need to cook it. It is easy to cook. I just saute it in garlic and onions with pork and shrimp, add some chicken stock and when it is boiling you can put the diced upo and voila ! You have a perfect lunch!
Upo is easy to plant also. But you need to prepare your planting site first. Upo is a plant that grows in a vine so it needs a trellis or what we call “pala-pala” which is made of bamboo. Before you plant the seeds, you must prepare the soil too. Make sure you add a lot of compost with well rotted manure. If you have access in getting seaweeds from the nearby beach, you can also add it in the compost pile you are making. It will also help to boost the production of “upo” or long squash. The soil should be well-draining and the site should be in full sun. Regular watering is also required especially during the hot months.
Like other squashes, pollination is made by bees, but you can hand pollinate it too. When the white flowers emerge with a small upo (this is the female flower), you can use a small painting brush to pollinate by brushing the pollen of male flowers to the female flowers. I always have ninety-nine percent chance of success by doing this hand pollination. I have tried this in other squash types too like kalabasa or pumpkin and patola or luffa gourd. You may add a fertilizer with high number in the middle for higher yields. But like other vegetables, you need to pick the fruits when young to have a non-stop supply of “upo” all summer long.
The list of healthful benefits of “upo” is long. It is rich in anti-oxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It has Vitamin B-complex which helps in regulating blood sugar which is good for controlling diabetes.