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The calabash or bottle gourd (not to be confused with the calabaza) is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe. For this reason, one of the calabash subspecies is known as the bottle gourd. The fresh fruit has a light green smooth skin and a white flesh. However the rounder varieties are called Calabash gourds whereas the longer and slimmer kinds are usually well known as bottle gourds.

The calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not for food but as a container. It was named for the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete)

Culinary and other uses

The calabash, as a vegetable, is frequently used in southern Chinese cuisine as either a stir-fry or in a soup. The Chinese name for calabash is hulu ( ) or huzi ( ) in Mandarin.

In Japan, the vegetable is known as or . It is most commonly sold in the form of dried, marinated strips known as kanpyō and is commonly used as an ingredient for making makizushi (rolled sushi).

In Koreamarker, it is known as bak (박) or jorongbak (조롱박).

In the Philippinesmarker, it is known as upo.

In Italian cuisine, it is known as cucuzza (plural cucuzze).

In Central America, the seeds of the Calabash gourd are toasted and ground with other ingredients (including rice, cinnamon, and allspice) to make the drink horchata. Calabash is known locally as morro or jícaro.

In Tanzania, the pulp coated seeds of the Calabash are known as buyu (singular)/mabuyu (plural). These sour pulp coated seeds are gently cooked with sugar and coloured with food colouring and sold as sweets in coastal towns.

In Pakistanmarker, it is known as lauki in Urdu. In India it is known as lauki,dudhi (दूदी) or ghiya (घीया) in Hindi,churakka (ചുരക്ക) in Malayalam, Jatilao in Assamese, lau in Bengali, Sora kaaya (సొర కాయ) in Telugu, dudhi-Bhopala (दुधी) in Marathi, sorekayi in Kannada, and suraikkaai (சுரைக்காய் colloq. sorakkay) in Tamil. In parts of India, the dried, unpunctured gourd is used as a float (called surai-kuduvai in Tamil) to learn swimming in rural areas. The dried and cored thick outer skin has traditionally been used to make musical instruments like the tanpura, veena, etc.

In Bangladeshmarker it is called lau (লাউ).

In (Nepali) it is called "lauka".

In Arabic it is called qara. The tender young gourd is cooked as a summer squash.

In Vietnammarker, it is called bầu canh or bầu nậm and is used in a variety of dishes: boiled, stir-fried, soup dishes and as a medicine.

The shoots, tendrils, and leaves of the plant may also be eaten as greens.

Additionally, the gourd can be dried out and used to smoke pipe tobacco. A typical design yielded by this squash is recognized in (theatrically) the pipe of Sherlock Holmes. But Doyle never mentions Holmes using a calabash pipe. It was the preferred pipe for stage actors portraying Holmes, because they could balance this pipe better than other styles while delivering their lines.

Other cultural uses

The Caribbean

The Calabash is primarily used as a utensils, such as a cups, bowls, and basins in rural areas. It can be used for carrying water, or can be made for carrying items, such as fish, when fishing. In some Caribbean countries it is worked, painted and decorated as shoulder bags or other items by artisans, and sold to tourists.In Jamaica is also a reference to the natural lifestyle of Rastafarians. As a cup, bowl, or even water-pipe or "bong", the calabash is considered consistent with the "Ital" or vital lifestyle of not using refined products such as table salt, or using modern cooking methods, such as microwaves. In Haiti the plant is called "kalbas kouran", literally "running calabash", and is used to make the sacred rattle emblematic of the Vodou priesthood, called an "asson". As such, the plant is highly respected.

West Africa

out and dried calabashes are a very typical utensil in households across West Africa. They are used to clean rice, carry water and also as food containers. Smaller sizes are used as bowls to drink palm-wine. Calabashes are used by some musicians in making the kora (a harp-lute), xalam/ngoni (a lute) and the goje (a traditional fiddle). They also serve as resonators on the balafon (West African marimba). The calabash is also used in making the shegureh (a Sierra Leonean women's rattle) and balangi (a Sierra Leonean type of balafon) musical instruments. Sometimes, large calabashes are simply hollowed, dried and used as percussion instruments, especially by Fulani, Songhai, Gur-speaking and Hausa peoples. In Nigeriamarker, the calabash has been used to avoid a law requiring the wearing of a helmet on a motorcycle.


In many rural parts of Mexicomarker, the calabash is dried and carved hollow to create a bule, a gourd used to carry water around like a canteen.

South America

In Argentinamarker, Uruguaymarker and Paraguaymarker, calabash gourds are dried and carved into mates, the traditional container for the popular caffeinated tealike drink brewed from the yerba mate plant. In Brazilmarker, this container is called cuia.

The president of Venezuelamarker, Hugo Chavez, has ordered Venezuelans to avoid longer than 3-minute showers. The use of calabash or gourd will save energy when used as a tool to pour limited amounts of water over the body.


A bottle gourd
The hulu is an ancient remedy for health. In the old days the doctors would carry medicine inside so it has fabled properties for healing. The hulu is believed to absorb negative earth-based qi (energy) that would otherwise affect health and is a traditional Chinese medicine cure. Dried calabash is also used as containers of liquids, often liquors or medicine. Calabash were also grown in earthen molds to form different shapes and dried to house pet crickets, which were kept for their song and fighting abilities. The texture of the gourd lends itself nicely to the sound of the animal, much like a musical instrument. It is a symbol of the Xian immortals.


Hindu ascetics (sadhu) traditionally use dried gourd as a vessel called Kamandalu. The practice is also common among Buddhist and Jain sages.


In Hawaiimarker a calabash is a large serving bowl. It is usually made from a hardwood, rather than from the Calabash Gourd as in Maroon cultures. It is used on a buffet table or in the middle of the dining table. The use of the calabash in Hawaii has led to terms like "Calabash Family" or "Calabash Cousins". It indicates that an extended family has grown up around shared meals and close friendships. Food is very important in modern Hawaiian culture. The expression "E komo mai - Come, let's eat" was the standard welcome to anyone approaching a home.

The ATM machines of the University of Hawaii Federal Credit Union (UHFCU) are labeled "Kalabash", perhaps because they can be thought of as a large serving bowl for twenty-dollar bills.


The president of Venezuelamarker, Hugo Chavez, has ordered Venezuelans to avoid longer than 3-minute showers. The use of calabash or gourd will save energy when used as a tool to pour limited amounts of water over the body.

See also

Multilingual list of Indian Vegetables, spices & grains

Image gallery

Image:Bottle gourd seeds.jpg|Bottle gourd seedsImage:Lagenaria siceraria Clavata Group1SHSU.jpg|A calabash in the gardenImage:Gambia kora havard.jpg|Instrument makingImage:Calabash flower.jpg|Calabash flowerImage:Calebasse.jpg|Calabash as containerImage:Gourd lamp.jpg|Gourd lampImage:Gourdlamp.jpg|Head-shaped lamp made from a calabash


  1. Title
  2. [1] The History of an Indian Musical Instrument Maker, Kolkata, India
  3. image at Joseph Opala, "Origin of the Gullah",
  4. [2], Nigeria bikers' vegetable helmets, BBC News

External links

  • How Bottle Gourds were bought to America by Native Americans
  • Gourd Information, Projects, News.
  • Bottle Gourds, Crafts, Instruments and Information

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