Trichosanthes cucumerina is a tropical or subtropical vine, its variety T. cucumerina var. anguina raised for its strikingly long fruit, in Asia eaten immature as a vegetable much like the summer squash, and in Africa, the reddish pulp of its mature fruit is used as an economical substitute of tomato.<ref>Kew Gardens. Snake gourd Trichosanthes cucumerina var. anguina. http://www.kew.org/support-kew/adopt-a-seed/trichosanthes-cucumerina-var-anguina.htm</ref> Common names of the cultivated variety include snake gourdTemplate:Refn,<ref name="ushadevi" /> serpent gourd,<ref name="ushadevi" /> chichinda,<ref name="ushadevi" /> and padwal<ref name="ushadevi">Flowers of India, snake gourd, Trichosanthes cucumerina</ref> (not to be confused with Trichosanthes dioica, the parwal, another gourd edible when immature).
Trichosanthes cucumerina is found in the wild across much of South and Southeast Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), and southern China (Guangxi and Yunnan).<ref name="annachang">Flora of China v 19 p 38, Trichosanthes cucumerina</ref> It is also regarded as native in northern Australia.<ref>Florabase, the Western Australia Flora, Trichosanthes cucumerina</ref><ref>Coopper, Wendy E., & Hugo J. DeBoer. 2011. A taxonomic revision of Trichosanthes L. (Cucurbitaceae) in Australia, including one new species from Northern Territory. Austrobaileya 8:364-386.</ref> and naturalized in Florida,<ref>United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plants Profile, Trichosanthes cucumerina, snakegourd</ref> parts of Africa and on various islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.<ref name="mayaangelou">Prota 2, Vegetables/Légumes, Trichosanthes cucumerina L.</ref>
Formerly, the cultivated form was considered a distinct species, T. anguina, but it is now generally regarded as conspecific with the wild populations, as they freely interbreed:<ref name="corazonhalasan"/>
- Trichosanthes cucumerina var. anguina (L.) Haines – cultivated variant
- Trichosanthes cucumerina var. cucumerina – wild variant
Trichosanthes cucumerina is a monoecious annual vine climbing by means of tendrils. Leaves are palmately lobed, up to 25 cm long. Flowers are unisexual, white, opening at night, with long branching hairs on the margins of the petals. These hairs are curled up in the daytime when the flower is closed, but unfurl at night to form a delicate lacy display (see photos in gallery below). Fruits can be up to 200 cm long, deep red at maturity, hanging below the vine.<ref name="corazonhalasan"/><ref name="ushadevi"/><ref name="annachang"/>
The related Japanese snake gourd (Trichosanthes pilosa, sometimes called T. ovigera or T. cucumeroides), very similar in vegetative morphology, but the fruit of T. pilosa is round to egg-shaped, only about 7 cm long.<ref>Flora of China v 19 p 45, Trichosanthes cucumeroides</ref>
The common name "snake gourd" refers to the narrow, twisted, elongated fruit. The soft-skinned immature fruit can reach up to Template:Convert in length. Its soft, bland, somewhat mucilaginous flesh is similar to that of the luffa and the calabash. It is popular in the cuisines of South Asia and Southeast Asia and is now grown in some home gardens in Africa. With some cultivars, the immature fruit has an unpleasant odor and a slightly bitter taste, both of which disappear in cooking. The fruit becomes too bitter to eat as it reaches maturity, but it does contain a reddish pulp that is used in Africa as a substitute for tomatoes.<ref name="mayaangelou"/><ref>Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank, the weird and wonderful snake gourd Template:Webarchive</ref>
In the process of unfurling its fimbriate petals.
- Trichosanthes kirilowii, Chinese snake gourdTemplate:Refn
- Trichosanthes ovigera, Japanese snake gourdTemplate:Refn
- Lagenaria siceraria, some of its immature edible cultivars can be found as "snake gourds", not the preferred name.Template:Refn
- Trichosanthes dioica, Pointed gourd or Parwal, also edible when immature.
- Trichosanthes cucumerina Linn. improves glucose tolerance and tissue glycogen in non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus induced rats