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Moa gua is a type of squash in the cucumber family. At first glance, it resembles a rather hairy version of the cucumber, with a long tapering shape and downy skin. It is used in the cuisine of some Asian nations, and it can be used in a variety of other dishes as well. Some Asian markets stock moa gua, and it can also be grown at home, for people who live in temperate climates. Moa gua squash seeds are available from many seed companies, especially those which focus on Asian vegetable cultivars.
Like many Asian vegetables, moa gua squash has a number of aliases resulting from transliteration confusions. It is also known as mao gua, mogwa, and moqua. Some people refer to it as hairy melon, fuzzy gourd, or hairy cucumber, in a reference to its appearance, and it is also called ho bak or bi dao in some parts of Asia.
When young, moa gua has a tender, mild flavor, but it becomes bitter with age. Both young and old forms are used; bitter versions are popular in soups, for example, while the tender young vegetable is sometimes used in sweets. In all cases, the flesh of moa gua is white to creamy in color, and the rind is speckled and green; with time, the rind also becomes quite thick, as is common with members of the gourd family.
Young moa gua squash can be used in sautes, stir fries, soups, stews, and similar dishes. Older vegetables require longer cooking times to soften, and their bitterness makes them an acquired taste. In Asia, where bitter flavors are valued as a part of a sweet, hot, salty, bitter, and sour palate, older moa gua is often relatively easy to find at markets, where it may also be called winter melon. Older vegetables also take well to canning and similar preservation techniques.
If you want to grow moa gua squash at home, you can grow it like many other members of the squash family. Start seedlings indoors around two weeks before the last frost of the spring, and plant them when the last chance of frost is over. Keep the squash seedlings well watered, and provide trellises for them to grow on to encourage the fruits to grow off the ground. Harvest moa gua squash when young for tender, versatile squash, or allow it to age into an older version, which can be kept in the root cellar over the winter or turned into preserves.