Calabash: The Asian Bottle Gourd

Do you know the calabash gourd, which we widely consume like a vegetable, is in fact, a fruit? Let’s learn more about calabash, where it grows, and how to use it in the kitchen.

What is Calabash?

Calabash (Lagenaria siceraria) is also known as the bottle gourd, birdhouse gourd, white-flowered gourd, New Guinea bean, and long melon, is a fruit vine that’s primarily grown for two reasons: firstly, for its vegetable when harvested unripe, and secondly, to be used as a material good when it has fully matured, hardened, and dried while still being intact on the vine. The material goods obtained from matured calabash gourd range from culinary utensils like pots, dishes, and spoons to traditional musical instruments like sitar, Ektara, kora, and Rudra veena.

Image Credit: DEZALB from Pixabay 

Unripe calabash is light green, smooth-skinned, and firm-textured with white flesh. It comes in several shapes and sizes including round, elongated, bottle-shaped, small, and huge. The round fruits are normally referred to as “calabash gourds”. It’s one of the few globally domesticated plants and easily found in local grocery stores while in season.

What Does Calabash Taste Like?

Calabash or bottle gourd is mildly flavored with hints of sweetness, similar to vegetables in the summer squash family. The texture is firm and easy to cut through like cucumber flesh, but less juicy. Some calabash fruits might contain cucurbitacin toxins that give them a bitter taste; it’s recommended to avoid eating a bitter calabash due to health concerns, so stick to the subtly sweet ones! 

Image Credit: LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

What to do with Calabash?

Calabash is popular in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries where it’s made into spicy, sweet, or tangy curries that are paired with boiled rice for a complete meal. Try making an Indian-style calabash gourd curry using this recipe but make sure to swap butternut squash for calabash gourd. 

Or try making a Thai-style calabash curry with coconut milk, calabash, red curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, and lemongrass. For a simpler approach, calabash gourd can be stuffed with cheese, nuts, and roasted or grilled for a healthy lunch.

Need some recipe ideas for calabash? Look no further than these recipes but replace squash with calabash instead.

      Twice Baked Butternut Squash

      Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

      Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage

      Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Not only is calabash flesh edible, but its seeds are also nutritious and super delicious. The seeds can be dried, toasted, and seasoned to be consumed as a healthy snack or you can incorporate unseasoned seeds into your bread, muesli, or breakfast oats. Our recipe for Pumpkin Bread is a great candidate for using your stocked-up calabash seeds. 

Feature Image: Manfred Richter from Pixabay 

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