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ASH GOURD-AN UNDEREXPLOITED POTENTIAL CROP
Benincasa is a monotypic genus which belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae usually known as Ash Gourd and has synonyms like Wax Gourd, Winter Melon, White Gourd, Tallow Gourd, White Pumpkin, Ash Pumpkin, Chinese preserving Melon, Pith Gourd and Hairy Melon (when immature). Ash Gourd is mainly cultivated in the Old World tropics and is native to the Asian tropics (including India), mostly valued for its long storage life and good scope for value addition. It originated from South Asia including India, where mention of the fruit finds place in Ayurvedic preparations for the medicinal properties and mentioned in Ayurveda as ‘Khusmanda’ in Sanskrit. Its fruits contain various minerals and vitamins, having a relatively high level of K and Na, and low calorific value and no fat. From the Index of Nutrition Quality Value (INQV), it has been evaluated as a quality vegetable but rarely used as vegetable. In North India, it is suggested to sow October to November. Sowing in October can prevent Mosaic Virus to an extent. The famous; ‘Petha’ prepared as sweet cubes mainly originated from Agra, which was marketed as a processed product of Ash Gourd. It is valued for its medicinal attributes especially in Ayurveda for the cure of peptic ulcers. The fruit juice is used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating a range of ailments including insanity and epilepsy. Ash Gourd is found to be the rich source of macro and micro nutrients. Local landraces and released variety from different SAUs of ash gourd BAGS-2, BAGS-10, Pusa Shreyali scored highest concentration of Zn (62.44 mg Kg-1), P (0.62%) and Ca (10.00%) respectively. Highest concentration of magnesium was seen in BAGS-6 as well as Pusa Ujjwal i.e 5.60% where as Pusa Urmi and BAGS-10 found to be lowest i.e 1.80%. BAGS-9 (6598.50 mg Kg-1) recorded maximum concentration of iron followed by Pusa Shreyali (5230.40 mg Kg-1) and Kashi Surbhi (4852 mg Kg-1). Genotype BAGS-8 recorded maximum concentration of K (6.75%), S (0.80%) and Mn (229.70% mg Kg-1). Sensory evaluation of ash gourd local landraces i.e BAGS-11 and BAGS-11 (7.54 acceptability score with TSS of 2.03 0 brix) and BAGS-6 (overall acceptability 7.2) can be used for the well-known sweet dish petha and the nuggets (badi) preparation in villages correspondingly as value added products.