'Yakteen' is a beloved Palestinian heirloom gourd. It is eaten as a vegetable when small, dried to make bowls, jugs, or other instruments, and also used medicinally.
This gourd species is believed to have its roots in Africa, though on account of the dried fruit's ability to float the species can be found the world over — it even crossed the Atlantic thousands of years before the Vikings or Columbus! It has broad, velvety leaves, fine night-blooming white flowers that resemble lace, and — in this variety at least — elongated teardrop-shaped fruits. When picked young (at 8 inches in length or so) the fruits can be used much as you might use a zucchini or cucumber, which means it's good raw, cooked, or pickled. One popular recipe is stuffed with lamb, rice, and mint.
This lovely gourd was introduced to us by our dear friend Vivien Sansour, founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library. Vivien describes the Palestinian yakteen (which means simply "gourd" in Arabic, and is sometimes transliterated as "yaqtin") as "a magical being, a beloved Palestinian food." Much like other bottle-type gourd varieties, Palestinian yakteen grows best on a trellis, producing copious piles of gourds.
The medicinal uses of this species are myriad: They have been used to treat skin irritation, jaundice, diabetes, ulcers, fever, asthma and other bronchial disorders. The fruit is reportedly diuretic, tonic for the liver and brain, fever-reducing, aphrodisiac, purgative, cooling, said to be an excellent remedy for heart problems, and urinary disorders. The juice is useful against constipation. It helps in losing weight because of its high dietary fiber and low fat and cholesterol content. Its seeds are vermifuge (meaning they can destroy or expel parasitic worms).
Vivien and this gourd were featured in an article in Modern Farmer. She is quoted there: “These little seeds hold the DNA of my culture—a culture that’s being attacked, eliminated and destroyed. And so, when I share it, it becomes literally part of somebody else’s body and psyche. And in this way, we are not alone in our struggle.”
50% of the price of every packet sold will go to the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library to support their important work in preserving Palestinian farming and foodways.