In Bengali, we call the marrow by the affectionate-sounding name pronounced /laʊ/, which in my mind conjures the image of a lovable, kindly giant. Indeed, with their impressive sizes and interesting forms, their fresh flavours and culinary versatility, marrow and related veggies like gourd and cucumber are great in the garden and on the plate – which is why we’ve always grown lots of them. As my dad bought the first plants years ago and since then has extracted their seeds for their future generations, the original labels are now lost, leaving the exact varieties we have as something of a mystery. However, most gourds produce similar flowers to what I’m about to describe. Our gourds have wonderful blooms which are a very pure white, have a fantastic sea-foam-like appearance, and the delicate translucency of fine paper. Their beauty really struck me this summer, and one day when I was wandering round my garden, I was curious to see if they radiated scent. To my delight, I found they smell much like cucumber. Their fragrance combined with their visual beauty was the ultimate freshness experience. My sister said they smell like ‘cucumber face-wipes’, and I know just what she means; for the flower and its essence is so soft, calming and refreshing.
While other white flowers are divine and transport one to heaven – white rose, gardenia, and wild honeysuckle, for example – these all have a radiant golden nectar-sweetness, which although I also love deeply, it does make white gourd flower very different in quite a wonderful way. If you think you’re ‘not a flower person’ because of their pungent or honey-sweet scents, or if you’re queasy of people’s undying love of ‘white flowers’, you would find white-as-snow, infinitely delicate gourd flower a refreshing surprise; because while it’s as lovely as any other white flower, its fragrance does not have the glittered gloss of ‘angelic’ or ‘royal’. Rather, gourd flower’s aroma is pure in a blissfully stripped-back way, as simple as a soft breeze, and as grounded as bare feet on spring grass.