AskDefine | Define calabash

Dictionary Definition



1 round gourd of the calabash tree
2 tropical American evergreen that produces large round gourds [syn: calabash tree, Crescentia cujete]
3 Old World climbing plant with hard-shelled bottle-shaped gourds as fruits [syn: bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria]
4 bottle made from the dried shell of a bottle gourd [syn: gourd]
5 a pipe for smoking; has a curved stem and a large bowl made from a calabash gourd [syn: calabash pipe]

User Contributed Dictionary



*French calebasse "gourd"


  1. 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, like a gourd.
  2. A utensil made of the dried shell of a calabash and used as a bottle, dipper, etc.



a vine grown for its fruit
  • Hungarian: lopótök


Extensive Definition

This article is about one of the plant species by this name. For other uses, see Calabash (disambiguation).
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.

Culinary use

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, where it is known as kanpyō, it is sold in the form of dried, marinated strips. It is used in place of seafood in a form of vegetarian makizushi (rolled sushi).
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, 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.
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.
Additionally, the gourd can be dried out and used to smoke pipe tobacco. A typical design yielded by this squash is recognized in the pipe of Sherlock Holmes.

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.


External links

calabash in Min Nan: Pû-á
calabash in German: Kalebasse
calabash in Spanish: Lagenaria siceraria
calabash in Esperanto: Kalabaso
calabash in French: Calebasse
calabash in Korean: 호리병박
calabash in Hungarian: Lopótök
calabash in Malay (macrolanguage): Pokok Labu Parang
calabash in Dutch: Fleskalebas
calabash in Japanese: ヒョウタン
calabash in Polish: Tykwa
calabash in Portuguese: Cabaça
calabash in Russian: Калебас
calabash in Swedish: Kalebass
calabash in Vietnamese: Bầu (thực vật)
calabash in Tonga (Tonga Islands): fangu
calabash in Chinese: 葫芦
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