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New Guinea bean keeps its cool

New Guinea bean keeps its cool

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SIMON WEBSTER finds a plant with many names that loves the subtropics.

Growing green beans and zucchinis can be troublesome in the middle of a subtropical summer. Fungal diseases such as rust and powdery mildew can turn a gardener’s best-laid plans to dust in no time.

Which is where New Guinea bean comes in. Killing two birds with one stone, it’s an edible gourd that tastes like beans and is prepared like zucchini. Itthrives in humid climates and produces heaps of long, skinny green fruit.

It’s a variety of Lagenaria siceraria, also known as white-flowered gourd, calabash, bottle gourd, edible gourd, cucuzza in Italian, yugao in Japanese, lauki in Hindi and dudhi in Gujarati (apparently “Dudhi khaaiye toh Budhi aave” means “If you eat bottle gourd you’ll get good brains”.)

Different Lagenaria siceraria varieties are used in numerous ways around the world. Many are grown not for food but to be made into useful objects and ornaments – everything from musical instruments to bird houses.