Fruits & Vegetables

Calabas or Bengali Lau

Botanical Name:Lagenaria siceraria
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Cucurbitales
Species: L. siceraria

Common Names:: Bottle gourd, Calabash (Eng.); Kalbas (Afr.); Moraka (North Sotho); Segwana (Tswana); Iselwa (Xhosa, Zulu), Hindi:Louki, Dudhi. English:Bottle gourd, Calabash. Bengali:Lau. Gujrati:Dudhi . SoraykAyi. Kannada:Malyalam:Churaykka. Marathi:Dudhi, Dudhi bhopala. Panjabi : Dudhi, Ghiya. Tamil: Surai kai. Telugu: Sorakaya
Sinhala: Diya labu. Oriya: Lau.

Habitat:Grows in tropical jones, but now it is cultivated worldwide.

Vigorous annual herb. Stems prostrate or climbing, angular, ribbed, thick, brittle, softly hairy, up to 5 m long, cut stems exude no sap. Leaves simple, up to 400 mm long and 400 mm broad, shortly and softly hairy, broadly egg-, kidney- or heart-shaped in outline, undivided, angular or faintly 3-7-lobed, lobes rounded, margins shallowly toothed, crushed leaves non-aromatic. Leaf stalks up to 300 mm long, thick, often hollow, densely hairy, with two small, lateral glands inserted at the leaf base. Tendrils split in two.


Flowers stalked (female flower stalks shorter than male), solitary, monoecious (male and female flowers on the same plant); petals 5, crisped, cream or white with darker veins, pale yellow at the base, obovate, up to 45 mm long, opening in the evenings, soon wilting. Fruit large, variable, up to 800 x 200 mm, subglobose to cylindrical, flask-shaped or globose with a constriction above the middle; fleshy, densely hairy to ultimately glabrous, indehiscent, green, maturing yellowish or pale brown, pulp drying out completely on ripening, leaving a thick, hard, hollow shell with almost nothing inside except the seeds. Seeds many, embedded in a spongy pulp, 7-20 mm long, compressed, with two flat facial ridges, in some variants rather irregular and rugose.

The calabash or African 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.

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), a different type of plant.

Cultivation :   
Prefers a well-drained moist good rich circumneutral soil. Requires plenty of moisture in the growing season. Prefers a warm sunny position sheltered from the wind. The bottle gourd is widely cultivated in the tropics and sub-tropics for its edible fruit and for the hard wooden shell of the fruit that can be used as containers, musical instruments etc, there are many named varieties with different shaped and sized fruits. The variety ‘Cougourda’ is said to be the best for eating. Forms with wooden shells tend not to have an edible flesh. The plants are frost-tender annuals, they grow very rapidly and their stems can reach a length of 9 metres in the summer. A warm summer is required for good production of the fruit. British summers are often too cool for this species and obtaining a crop from outdoor-grown plants in this country is somewhat problematical. The best chance is by starting the plants off early in a warm greenhouse, growing them on fast and then planting them out as soon as possible but making sure that they are not checked by cold weather. Hand pollination of the fruits can increase fruit set. A climbing plant, attaching itself to supports by means of tendrils that grow out of the leaf axils. It can be used as a fast-growing summer screen. The leaves have a strong musky scent that some people find repulsive. The plant is remarkably disease and pest-free, this might be connected to the smell of the leaves.

Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse in a rich soil, putting 2 – 3 seeds in a pot and thinning to the strongest plant. Grow on fast and plant out as soon as possible after the last expected frosts, giving some protection until the plants are established and growing well. The seed germinates best at 25°c. Soaking the seeds for 12 hours in warm water prior to sowing can hasten germination[86]. Discard any seeds that have not germinated after 10 days, the plants they produce will not be vigorous enough to succeed outdoors in Britain

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.
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 (simplified Chinese ; traditional Chinese:; pinyin: húlu) or huzi (Chinese:  pinyin: húzi) in Mandarin.

In Japan, the vegetable is known as yIgao, named after a character in Genji Monogatari. It is most commonly sold in the form of dried, marinated strips known as kanpya, which are used in place of seafood in a form of vegetarian makizushi (rolled sushi).

In Korea, it is known as bak or jorongbak.

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 India, it is known as lauki in Urdu or dudhi or ghiya in Hindi, Jatilao in Assamese, lau in Bengali, sorakaya in Telugu, dudhi-Bhopala in Marathi, sorekayi in Kannada, and suraikkaai (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.

Immature fruit – cooked and used as a vegetable. They can be boiled, steamed, fried, used in curries or made into fritters. Of variable quality, but some of the selected cultivars from India and China are of very good quality, equivalent to good summer squashes. The pulp around the seed is purgative and should not be eaten. The fruit can be dried for later use. Leaves and young shoots – cooked and used as a potherb. Seed – cooked. Rich in oil, it is added to soups etc. A vegetable curd, similar to tofu, can be made from the seed. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It is used for cooking. Yields of up to 45% have been obtained

Lau is used to make a very authentic Bengali dish called Lau Chingri – a vegetable preparation prepared with Lau and Shrimps.

In Arabic it is called qara. In Bangladesh it is called lau or kumra/komra. The tender young gourd is cooked as a summer squash.

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

Medicinal Uses:
Antibiotic;  Antidote;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Febrifuge;  Lithontripic;  Odontalgic;  Poultice;  Purgative;  Stomachic;  Vermifuge.

The pulp around the seed is emetic and purgative. A poultice of the crushed leaves has been applied to the head to treat headaches. The flowers are an antidote to poison. The stem bark and the rind of the fruit are diuretic. The fruit is antilithic, diuretic, emetic and refrigerant. The juice of the fruit is used in the treatment of stomach acidity, indigestion and ulcers. The seed is vermifuge. A poultice of the boiled seeds has been used in the treatment of boils. Taken with Achyranthes spp the seed is used to treat aching teeth and gums, boils etc. Extracts of the plant have shown antibiotic activity. In many parts of China 3 grams per day of this species (the report does not say what part of the plant) has been used as a single treatment for diabetes mellitus

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Other cultural uses:-

West Africa
Hollowed out and dried calabashes are a very typical utensil in households across West Africa. They are used to clean rice, carry water and also just as a food container. Smaller sizes are used as bowls to drink palm-wine. Calabashes are used by some musicians in making the kora (a harp-lute), xalam (a lute), 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 many rural parts of Mexico, the calabash is dried and carved hollow to create a bule, a gourd used to carry water around like a canteen.

South America
In Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, calabash gourds are dried and carved into mates, the traditional container for the popular caffeinated tealike drink (also called mate) brewed from the yerba mate plant.

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.

In Hawaii 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. “Komo E Kaukau”, meaning “come and eat”, is the most expected greeting in a Hawaiian home.

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.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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