Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 5, 2016 - I have good news for all my friends in the southern USA…if there is a famine, you won’t starve! You know all that Kudzu that is everywhere you go? It is not only edible, but good for you! Every part of the plant, except the woody vine, is edible, although in Asia the root, called “gé gēn,” is the most popular. We have never seen it in the supermarkets, but the wet markets have it. We decided to give it a try, made some soup with it, and although I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, it wasn’t bad! It reminded me of jicama, very hard when fresh, somewhat difficult to peel and chop, and not a lot of it’s own flavor. We also purchased some “ge fen,” or kudzu root powder, for a drink. I decided to try it plain, again not my favorite, but, it suggested adding a little sweetener, and I can see that would make it very palatable. It seems there are plenty of US websites that suggest using the leaves for salad. And… the root and flowers are used in TCM, have been for 2000 years! You’re probably thinking everything is used in TCM! Not really, but I write about the interesting things :-) The main use over time has been for alcoholism, supposedly it helps with hangovers! Who wants some now??? And a lot more…look up either kudzu or pueraria if you are interested in the medicinal uses.

Bottle Gourd

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 1, 2016 -This squash never really looked much different from the regular zucchini squash I buy so I’ve tended to just ignore it. Leah finally decided we should try it. As with so many other vegetables, it has many names! In English, it can be called calabash gourd (with a rounded bottom) or bottle gourd (long and slender like the picture), in Chinese it is pu guo 蒲瓜 (pronounced poo gwa), and in other Asian countries it can be lauki, doodhi, or opo squash. They are all the same other than shape; It has smooth light green skin and white spongy flesh with seeds. I read both to take the seeds out or to leave them, so we left them in and they weren’t even noticeable. It has a very mild taste, but is supposedly packed with health benefits; It has a very high water content and is good for digestion, urinary health (acts as a diuretic), eases constipation, weight loss (especially when juiced), high blood pressure and heart health! Taste a small piece before using and if it is bitter you shouldn’t eat it. We peeled and cubed ours, then tried it two different ways. We made a soup with the bottle gourd, carrot, onion and sweet potato, boiled them in water, then pureed the mixture and added coconut milk and seasoning (It looked like pumpkin soup!)…. turned out delicious! The other half we just stir fried with some beef strips, garlic and onion. I liked it in the soup best, but the stir-fry was also good. They are harvested young for eating, if left to mature, then they are dried and the shell hardens making them just right for bottles and musical instruments. I’m curious if those of you outside of Asia can buy these?