For the most part the melons are round, though they can also be slightly oblong. They will grow to be 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) across. The average size that reaches markets in the West is about 15 inches (40 cm) wide, which will weigh about 12 pounds (5 1/2 kg.) It is often sold in pieces, because it is so large.
The rind is thin but hard, and very pale green. It develops a whitish powder on it, that to some looks as though it has been rolled in ash, thus one of its synonyms “Ash Gourd.” Some people have thought that the whitish blotches of powder also look like snow, thus the “Winter” name. The rind has a waxy feel, thus yet another synonym, “Wax Gourd.”
The flesh has the same texture as watermelon before cooking, though to be clear, the taste is not at all sweet. Instead, the taste is described as subtle, which means translates into it having more of a bland, neutral taste like zucchini. It really needs to be jazzed up, or served with spicy dishes.
It is treated as a squash in cooking in cuisines such as Thai.
In India and China, pieces of it are crystallized with sugar to make a confection (called “petha” in India; “puhul dosi” in Sri Lanka.) To make the candy, pieces of rind are softened with Lime (the chemical), then candied in a simmering sugar syrup.
Winter Melon Squash is different from Winter Melons.
Cook as you would any Summer Squash or zucchini or Marrow squash, though you peel and discard the rind and the seeds.
Pieces can be candied or pickled.
In China, it’s also used in the soup we call in English “Winter Melon Pond”, which is served using a hollowed out Winter Melon Squash as a serving bowl. In Chinese, the soup is called “dong gwa jong.”
Store cut Winter Melon Squash wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to a few days. Whole, uncut ones can be stored for a few weeks in a cool, dark place.
The Chinese name is transliterated variously as “tung qwa”, “dong gua” or “doan gwa.”
Called “Winter” because it becomes available in South East Asia during the winter, and because of the white powder on its rind.
In Thai, it is called “fag” (sic.)