You know how I keep mentioning that our garden is in a rather natural (overgrown) state? Well, a lot of underbrush has grown, and amidst all those self-sowing plants sprang a vine that worked its way up other plants and onto the top of the chain link fence shared with our new neighbour. It proceeded to grow with glee, prompting our neighbours who are also interested in growing edible plants to enquire if it was a useful plant.
In my usual experience, volunteer plants that spread that quickly are not classified as nice ones; however, I dutifully examined the plant before offering to uproot it (since it had grown from the mini jungle on our side of the fence). One of the ways I check plants is to bruise the leaves to get the scent of the plant. If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know that it’s a great way to identify a plant – not just with herbs but fruiting plants, too. In this case, the leaves gave up an unusual scent that I recognised. It was the short snake gourd that I had grown several years ago and forgot to save seeds from!
Note to self: SAVE SEEDS THIS TIME!
The plant must have started from a seed dispersed by a bird sitting on the literal fence. It’s the same way we started growing the small bittergourd – in that case, thanks to a bird sitting on a plant. Such volunteer plants are a pleasant and welcome surprise, and I’d like to thank the neighbour(s) who grew the plants! Obviously, birds ate the fruits in a neighbour’s garden and pooped seeds out over here.
It took a few weeks of flowering before the fruits finally began to appear. In that time, I began to carefully weed the area around the base of the vine just to see where it originated so we wouldn’t accidentally cut or uproot it. Interestingly, the plant began to wilt after I cleared the ground around it. This made me realise that while I thought the other plants growing around the vine were choking it, they were actually helping to shade the ground and keep it moist! In the hot weather we’re experiencing, this is a good thing. The vine recovered once I’d quickly mulched the ground around it with fallen leaves and the plants I had uprooted.
This short snake gourd vine tends to fruit quite prolifically. Like most plants, the fruits come in waves, so every few days, my neighbours and I go on snake gourd hunts together. It seems to be the most effective way to discover the fruits, because they hide extremely well, and it takes eyes on both sides of the fence to find them. Then we divvy up the spoils and share recipes, and in some cases, food. I’ve learned that this fruit veg is delicious in dhal curry! I don’t remember how long this plant lasts, but for the weeks or months that it’s producing fruits, we shall definitely appreciate them!