Edible and useful
Gourde calebasse, lonj, longe, gourd, Jonas’gourd, bottle gourd, calabash gourd, white-flowered gourd, calabazo, carracho, cuicharo, marimbo, condungo amargo, …
The bottle gourd is a vigorous, annual, running or climbing vine with large leaves and a lush appearance.
The vine is branched and climbs by means of tendrils along the stem. The foliage is covered with soft hairs and has a foul musky odour when crushed. The leaves of the bottle gourd are up to 15 inches wide, circular in overall shape, with smooth margins, a few broad lobes, or with undulate margins. Leaves have a velvety texture because of the fine hairs, especially on the undersurface.
The bottle gourd flowers are borne singly on the axils of the leaves, the males on long peduncles and the females on short peduncles. The flowers are white and attractive, up to 4 inches in diameter, with spreading petals. The ovary is inferior and in the shape of the fruit. Otherwise, the male and female flowers are similar in appearance. The anthers are borne on short filaments grouped at the center of the flower. The stigmas are short, thickened, and branched. The brownish seeds are numerous in a whitish green pulp. Each seed is somewhat rectangular in shape with grooved notches near the attached end. Fruit set can be improved by hand pollination.
When bottle gourds are to be used as containers, they may be constricted by bands to make particular shapes. The gourds are permitted to obtain a maximum maturity on the vine before harvest. When harvested with a short length of vine, they can be hung from wires below a hot ceiling, where they slowly dry out.
Another technique is to fill the partially cleaned gourds with clean, dry sand, and cover them with sand in a container. This is heated over a fire for several days, drying out the gourds. Patterns may be cut into the gourds before they are dried, or the shells may be forced into desired shapes. Dried gourds are cleaned, painted, shellacked, or waxed. Well-treated gourds become durable containers.
Culture and care
Space plants 9 feet apart. Plant seeds 1½ inches deep in raised beds or mounds. A trellis is advised, but vines may be allowed to run on the ground. With ground culture, the use of mulch helps to prevent fruit-rotting, but fruits often form away from the mulch. Some gardeners prune the vines when 8 feet long to encourage fruiting.
The calabash gourd can be grown from seed in frost-free areas. It prefers sandy or loamy soil, some shade, good rainfall or enough water. It can be treated either as a prostrate ground cover or as a climber, in which case the maturing fruit might need some support.
- Alimentary use
Young bottle gourd fruits are eaten as a boiled vegetable.
- Other uses
This plant species is one of the few from which useful and lasting containers can be made.
In southern Africa, the leaves are commonly eaten as a vegetable and are added fresh to maize porridge, or a relish is prepared from them, mixed with other plants. Dried leaves are stored for use in the lean season. The young shoots seem to be an important vegetable, unlike the young fruits that are considered by some to be a famine food.
Fruit is a good source of iron, calcium, and phosphorus, vitamin B.
Fruit is 6% sugar; the seeds contain a fixed oil and saponin.
Lagenaria means « with the appearance of bottle or flask ». Siceraria (for holding) « strong drink ».
The bottle gourd is one of humankind's first domesticated plants, providing food, medicine and a wide variety of utensils and musical instruments.
You can put a small fruit in a bottle, he will grow with the same shape of the bottle. You can also use ropes to make the fruit the shape you want.