Patola Farming

Patola belongs to the cucurbit family like squash, zucchini, gourds, watermelon, calabash, cucumber, and pumpkin. Patola is characterized by either ridged edges which has an English name Ridged gourd and smooth variant that has soft and smooth skin fruits. Smooth gourds has the scientific name Luffa cylindrical while the ridged gourd or angled gourd has the scientific name Luffa acutangula.

Because patola is easy to grow and adapt to the tropical climate of the Philippines, you may grow your own backyard patola vineyard.Follow through the patola farming guide to produce your own healthy patola veggie.

Patola Dishes

Both patola variants are grown locally and sold to public markets and groceries. The vegetable is commonly used in misua with patola. Misua are very thin noodles made from wheat flour and is cooked with salt and seasoning. Patola can be cooked with fish paste and other vegetables like bitter gourd, eggplant and squash for a tasty Ilocos ( Philippine province) dish called Binaggoongan. In some areas in the Philippines, the fruits are blanched or roasted and served with fish paste. 
The shots and flowers can also be eaten when cooked. The aromatic smell and rich flavors of the patola shots can make a delicious meal coupled with other edible vegetable flowers like squash flowers and its shots.

Patola Nutritional Value

Analysis of fruit of patola shows that it is an excellent source of phosphorous, iron and a fair source of calcium. It is rich in Vitamin A at 66 percent, carbohydrate at 19.64 percent, vitamin B at 18 percent, manganese at 17.26, and potassium with 17.15 percent of total nutrient contents. It has been found out to reduce arthritis, prevent diabetes, good for brain function, treat anemia, and good for skin health.

Patola Planting and Farming Guide

Patola is easy to plant. It germinates from seeds that came from a mature and dry patola fruit. Patola fruit can have 500 to 1000 seeds per fruit based on fruit size. Patola plant is an annual vine and has tendrils for support and for hooking for climbing. The large cylindrical elongated fruits has a typical diameter of  2-5 inches when about three weeks from flowering. It has yellow flowers and pollinated by bees. Butterflies also pollinate the flower blossoms. Patola varieties are monoecious or is self pollinating due to having both the male and female reproductive organs with its flowers. Male flowers develop in a cluster. Female flowers develop singly and has a noticeable fruiting beneath the sepals.

Patola is a tropical plant which requires enough rain for moisture and warm temperature with plenty of sunlight during fruiting stage.

1. Prepare land for planting
First prepare the land by removing weeds and grasses. Loosen the soil to ensure proper growth of the root system. You may use manual preparation, or by using plow or tractor. The soil should be pulverized and leveled. During rainy season, it is advisable to raise plant beds to avoid rotting due to roots being waterlogged.
2. Plant the seeds on the prepared bedding. The seeds are planted directly into the furrows. Two to three seeds per hole separated at least 2 inches apart for the seeds.  The spacing of 2 meter by 2 meters is advised between rows. 
3. Adding sticks for support should be done to prepare plants for climbing. Madre de cacao/ipil-ipil post can be used as trellis to facilitate the growth of vines. Trellising will be implemented by using a concrete or wood/ bamboo posts. Wood can be ipil-ipil or any sturdy wood material. For the top of the trellis, wood, wires or nylon twine can be used. For cheap setup, use available materials like bamboo sticks and cuttings, pr ipil-ipil branches. Provide the plants with trellis to produce many fruits. Making the patola crawl will not yield fruits. Trellising is also essential during the wet season to minimized fruit rotting and enhance leaf formation.
4. Fertilizers are applied to enhance soil nutrients.Complete fertilizer or 14-14-14 can be used with organic compost. Apply 1/2 tablespoon per vine.

5. Patola needs proper sunlight exposure to make food by photosynthesis. Training patola vines by guiding the shots towards the trellis and tying the stem lightly on the vertical pole or ladder-like trellis until it reaches the overhead trellis to facilitate good growth.

6. For commercial patola vineyard, irrigate the crop by flooding the area two weeks after emergence at summer. Repeat irrigating at seven days interval throughout the growing season when there is no precipitation. This will allow the vines to absorb water for growth.
7. Cultivation can be occasionally done every 3 months along with fertilizer application. This is necessary to loosen the soil around the roots and to cover the exposed portions. Weeding must also be done simultaneously with cultivation to have healthy and robust plants. Weeds need to be eradicated since it takes away nutrients supposed to be used by the patola plant.
8. Pest and diseases can be controlled. Pests includes fruitfly, thrips, caterpillar, and aphids. Use pesticides to control them and observe the signs of infestation. Apply pesticides when the sky is clear to avoid washing away of the pesticides. Diseases include Downey Mildew or spots that are irregular in shape usually appear in the surface of the leaves. The spot disease creates wilting of the leaves and discoloration. Control Measures that can be applied are planting resistant varieties, restrain nitrogen fertilization and irrigation, fungicide application if symptom is becoming severe, do clean cultural management practices, and practice crop rotation to break the cycle of disease and its proliferation.

Patola Harvesting

As the most important and enjoying moment of the planting season is the harvesting period. For use as vegetables, 12-15 days after fruit setting, harvest immature fruits using a sharp knife to cut the peduncle when fruits are not yet old and still green or about half the size of a mature fruit. The right fruits are soft which is important to be sold at good value. Older fruits become inedible and fibrous. Harvesting is done by hand to avoid cutting the vegetative stem. Avoid cutting the fruit skin.
The shots and leaves can be harvested anytime as long as they are available. Cut with sharp knife. The patola fruits can be easily damaged. Careful wrapping and packaging is needed to enable long distance transport by using baskets, or 25kg capacity polyethylene bags. Storage life of young fruits is two or three weeks at 12-16 degrees C. Patola can also be turned into sponges. The best sponges are from mature fruits but still green fruits of smooth loofah which are fibrous and sturdy enough. They are processed by immersing in running water until the rind disintegrates. It is now dried into the sun after applying hydrogen peroxide.

By Kyle

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