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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Winter Gourd

Other Common Names Include:

Cham kwa, Chinese Preserving Melon, Chinese Winter Melon, Christmas Melon, Dong gua, Doongua, Mogwa, Ton kwa, Tougan, Tung qwa, Wax Gourd, Wax Melon, White Gourd, Zit kwa.

Latin Name: Benincasa hispida

Plant Family: Cucurbitaceae

Close Relatives: Cucumber, gourd and squash

Uses and Markets: Culinary (Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine): mature fruit sold whole or by the slice used to make soup or is stuffed and baked or stir fried.  In China, different varieties are preferred for different purposes.

Winter gourd: plant and fruit Winter gourd: fruit
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Soak seeds in hot water (45-55°C) for 20 minutes, then in warm water for 24 hours.  Some cucurbit crops respond well to season extension techniques including plastic mulch. For more information on season extension, refer to the General Agronomics section.  

Propagation method

Most commonly by transplants from seeds, less commonly by direct seeding.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates

Late April or early May.

Field Seeding Date:

After last frost.

Field Transplanting Dates

After last frost, 3-5 weeks after greenhouse seeding.

In-row spacing

50 cm-3.0 m

Between row spacing

1.2 m or more

Optimal Soil temperature at planting

Delay planting until the soil temperature is 15°C or higher.  The optimum soil temperature range at planting is 25°C-30°C.


Apply up to 110 kg/ha N. Broadcast 65 kg/ha N and all the phosphate and potash required prior to planting. Sidedress the remainder of the nitrogen before the vines start to run. On sandy soils, a second application may be necessary after the vines begin to run. Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Well-drained soils.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Grow on ground for larger fruits. Cucurbit crops may benefit from staking or trellising to reduce fruit damage on the ground, keep fruit clean and increase harvest ease.

Optimal Temperature Range

Prefers a temperate, warm climate.

Temperature sensitivity

Frost sensitive.

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation is beneficial under normal Ontario conditions.

Days to harvest

90-110 days

Specialized equipment


Harvest Scheduling

Multiple harvests from the same planting.

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Hand harvest

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes

If possible, harvest during cooler parts of the day to reduce moisture loss and cooling costs.  Remove field heat as soon as possible after harvest.

Post harvest
Special handling/curing


Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 70-75%

Temperature: 13-15°C 

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 6 months.

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Cucumber beetles, aphids (e.g. Aphis gossypii)

Diseases: Downy mildew, powdery mildew, alternaria blight

Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Two-spotted spider mites, leafhoppers, squash bugs

Diseases: Damping off and root rots, bacterial wilt, angular leaf spot, scab, anthracnose, gummy stem blight (also known as black rot or alligator skin), fusarium wilt, phytophthora blight, septoria leaf spot, cucumber mosaic virus.

*Indicates pests commonly mentioned as causing significant damage or economic loss to this crop in other regions.


To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario: cucumber beetle, aphids, powdery mildew. This crop may be susceptible to many of the same pests as melons, cucumber and squash.  Downy mildew is a serious disease of cucurbit crops.  Cucumbers are the most susceptible to infection, however melons and other cucurbit crops can be affected by certain pathotypes of this disease.  Downy mildew is wind borne and highly infectious. In susceptible cucurbits, it can destroy on unprotected crop in less than 1 week.  

This crop is in Crop Group 9: Cucurbit Vegetable Group and Subgroup 9B: Squash/Cucumber Subgroup. For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information on pests of cucurbits in Ontario, refer to OMAFRA’s Ontario CropIPM tool or vegetable production and protection publications. For more information, consult an OMAFRA specialist. For pest control products registered on cucurbits refer to OMAFRA Publication 838.  It is important to note that not all pest control products registered on cucumber and melon are registered on winter gourd. 

Additional Notes
  • Check for pollinator activity at early bloom.  Introduce honeybees if necessary. In cold climate, fruit set may be a problem – if this is the case, hand pollination should be considered.
  • This crop can also be grown in the greenhouse.
  • Note: Some varieties of Winter Gourd are grown for younger fruits known as Fuzzy Melon.  For more information, refer to the Fuzzy Melon profile.
Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Elford, E., Filotas, M., Todd, J., and S. Westerveld. 2009. Non-traditional crops demonstration garden. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  1. Munro, D. B., and E. Small.  1997.  Vegetables of Canada.  NRC Research Press, Ottawa.
  2. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.  2010.  Publication 363 Vegetable Production Recommendations 2010-2011.  Queen’s Printer for Ontario, Toronto.