Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bottle gourd cultivation

Lagenaria siceraria or Lagenaria vulgaris, the calabash, bottle gourd, opo squash, long melon,dudhi, lau or
lauki 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, the lau or calabash is widely known as
the bottle gourd. The fresh fruit has a light green smooth skin and a white flesh. Rounder varieties are called calabash gourds. They come in a variety of shapes, they can be huge and rounded, or small and bottle  shaped, or slim and more than a meter long.

The calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not primarily for food, but for use as a water container. The bottle gourd may have been carried from Africa to Asia, Europe and the Americas in the course of human migration. It shares its common name with that of the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete).
tender bottle gourd for vegetable


The word comes from the Spanish calabaza, possibly from Arabic qar'a yabisa "dry gourd," from Persian kharabuz, used of various large melons; or from a pre-Roman Iberian calapaccia.

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Calabash or bottle gourd had been cultivated in Asia, Europe and the Americas for thousands of years before Columbus's discovery of America.

Recent research indicates some can have an African origin and at least two unrelated domestications: one 8–9 thousand years ago, based on the analysis of archeological samples found in Asia, a second, four thousand years ago, traced from archeological discoveries in Egypt.

The mystery of the calabash – namely that this African or Eurasian species was being grown in America over 8000 years ago – came about from the difficulty in understanding how it came to be on the American continent. Now it is cultivated in all parts of the world .

How to grow Bottle Gourds

Bottle gourds are large gourds suitable for making water dippers, bird houses and craft projects. These gourds are relatively easy and fun to raise. Gourds are produced on fast growing large climbing vines.

Preparations for planting:

 Seeds should be soaked for twenty four hours in water to assist in germination. Planting can be started indoors and seedlings transplanted or the seeds can be directly sown in the soil. Well after any danger of frost, an area at least a foot wide and three to six feet long should be prepared by roto-tilling or spading, raked smooth and made free of stones and weeds. Gourds should be along a fence, trellis or wire climbing structure. Bottle gourds should be planted well away from squash, pumpkins and other gourds to prevent cross pollination.


After soaking, seeds should be planted 1/2" to 1 1/2" deep, about six inches apart in a single row.

Water well. After germination, thin as necessary. Once established, gourd seeds produce large fast growing climbing vines. Gourds mature in 100 to 180 days. Gourds will develop at the flower bud bases. Water daily as necessary.


- For use as vegetable tender bottle guards can be harvested .

- For the purpose of use as container or music instrument it should be left to mature fully and dry .

Bottle gourds will stop growing when they change from green to white then brown. Gourds can be left on the vine until the vine dies. Gourds should be harvested and then hung, or placed in a net bag, in a cool dry place for several months. The gourds are ready for use once they have turned brown, developed ugly mold spots, and you can hear the seeds rattle inside them when you shake them.

Uses of Bottle Gourds:

Your gourds must dry for several months. That done, they should be covered with mold, and you should hear the seeds inside when you shake the gourd.

 Before you can use them, you must clean a thin layer of mold off the outside. Using warm soapy water, a plastic scrub pad and a lot of elbow grease, the mold and a film layer will come off your gourds. Once removed, the gourds should look like new wood. One can dip the gourds in a weak solution of bleach, then rinse, to ensure the mold doesn't come back.

Once dried, you can cut the gourd like wood. Dremel tools, jig saws, wood burning tools, knives, paint, stains, shoe polish and your imagination can all be used to decorate your gourd. Also the addition of sea shells, feathers, stones, leather, string, etc... can be used.


The interior dust of gourds can cause lasting lung problems. When emptying out the interiors of your gourds, cutting or drilling, please use a dust mask and work in a well ventilated location. It should be done outside houde .

Any outside use of gourds for bird houses, bird feeders, or decorations, require that the gourds be sealed against the weather.

Tips & Warnings

- Water daily, the heat of the day may cause your gourds to wilt in mid summer.

- Don't plant under trees if you don't want your vines (and your gourds) twenty feet up in the air.

-  Keep seeds from your largest gourds to plant for the following year if you want to grow Purple Martin  

- Fences make a great place to plant your gourds along.

- Use a dust mask when cleaning out your gourds.

- Don't clean out your gourds inside your house.

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