Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goya (Nigauri/Bitter Gourd)

I've just found this post that I started back on 15th August, but never got round to posting.  This strange knobbly looking vegetable is a goya, quite possibly one of my favourite vegetables for its fresh unusual taste and nutritional value.
I first ate this five years ago when I went to Okinawa, the southern-most group of islands in Japan.  In Okinawa, it is most well-known in Goya Champuru recipes.  It seems to be a vegetable that causes mixed reactions.  Many people say it is bitter and so they don't like it.  But paired with the right ingredients it is incredibly refreshing!  Having said that, I love it so much I eat it raw in salads and smoothies.  

It is extremely rich in vitamin C, B vitamins and many essential minerals, higher than other dark green vegetables.  It's also supposed to show improvement in psoriasis sufferers, but difficult to pin that one down!

As far as growing it is concerned, it is a very popular summer plant in Japan.  It is a climber and forms a dense mass of leaves so is known as one of the 'Green Curtain' plants.  'Green Curtains' block sunshine going into the house and so make rooms much cooler.

This year I decided to have another go (3rd time lucky?) at growing this vegetable.  Previous attempts have been abysmal, really through my own fault (too small a pot the first, planting late in the season in poor soil the second).  But this year, there was more information available on the internet on growing this vegetable due to energy saving requirements in eastern Japan after the Tohoku earthquake.

When I started this post in the middle of August, I was feeling rather discouraged...  As well as the above I had written, 'So far I have eaten 3 of my own goya, plus have another 5 currently on the plant, hopefully more to follow!  This is from 2 plants.  Don't think that's exactly a roaring success, and the leaves are rather sparce and pathetic actually, although they do block some of the heat.  But...  much better than previous years, and I pinched out the growing tips rather too late I think, taking the advice I thought I got from my goya-expert neighbour!  I'll definitely try this again next year.  Apparently, planting directly into the soil also helps get a much denser curtain but that's not really an option without a lot of planning...'

Now it's another month on, and I've been really happy with the number of goya I've got, at least for my first attempt.  In the last few weeks, the leaves have become really abundant from about a metre  and a half off the ground, and in the last week or so I've had a goya a day!  Seems to be a late starter!  I've just taken this photo today.  Thinking about the fact that the leaves were sparce at the beginning and never ended up growing at the bottom of my plant, I think I've worked out the reason for that. Thinking I was cooling it down, I sprayed the leaves as well as watered at night.  But that seems just to have killed them off.  Next year!


  1. Interesting post! I never heard of this vegetable. Is its easy to buy seeds ?

    1. Oh really? You can see lots of them in the supermarket in summer - when I saw it for the first time I thought it was some kind of alien vegetable!

      I think you can buy seeds at garden centres, but you can certainly buy seedlings in about April which I think are easier to grow. They need a lot of sun, so are great to block out the heat during the summer!