Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich., 1824
Common names: Squirting cucumber [En], Concombre d'âne, Cornichon d'âne, Cornichon sauteur [Fr], Springkomkommer [Nl], Spritzgurke [De], Cocomero asinino [It], Pepinillo del Diablo [Es], Πικραγγουριά [Gr], Eşek hıyarı [Tu]
Carcassonne, AUDE ● France
Description: Ecballium elaterium has a large fleshy root, from which several round, thick, rough stems rise, branching and trailing like the common cucumber, but without tendrils. The leaves are petiolate, large, rough, irregularly cordate, and of a grayish-green color. The flowers are yellow and axillary. The fruit has the shape of a small oval cucumber, about an inch and a half long and one inch thick. It has a greenish or grayish color, and is covered with stiff hairs or prickles. The ripe fruit is about 4 cm long of yellow-green color.
Biology: It gets its unusual name from the fact that, when ripe, it separates from the peduncle, and throws out its juice and seeds with considerable force through an opening at the base, where it was attached to the footstalk. The name “squirting cucumber” comes from the tendency of the ripe fruit to explode upon the slightest touch, with its dark seeds and juice ejected at a distance of several meters.
Habitat: Dry and waste places.
Distribution: Mediterranean region of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia.
Caution: This plant, and especially its fruit, is poisonous, containing cucurbitacins. In the ancient world it was considered to be an abortifacient. Accidental exposure to the juice of the fruit can provoke and edema and conjunctivitis.
Uses: This plant is known for some medicinal uses, including its anti-hepatotoxicity, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. In folk medicine, it is used for the treatment of chronic sinusitis, for its diuretic activity, as analgesic and in treatment of haemorrhoids.
Shabbar M.S. & Maslat A.O., 2007. Genotoxicity of Ecballium elaterium (L). A Rich Cucurbitaceae Fruit Juice Using Micronucleus Assay and DNA Single Strand Break Techniques, The Internet Journal of Health, Vol. 6 Nr. 2.
Wikipedia, Ecballium elaterium
Yesilada E. et al., 1989. Antiinflammatory effects of the fruit juice of Ecballium elaterium on edemas in mice, Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp 75–76
Agil A. et al., 1999. Isolation of anti-hepatotoxic principle form the juice of Ecballium elaterium, Planta Med., 65(7):673-5.
Adwan G. et al., 2011. Effect of ethanolic extract of Ecballium elaterium against Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 456-460