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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Lagenaria siceraria species
Alternative Names: Kalbas (Afr), Iselwa (Xho, Zu), Segwana (Tswa), Moraka (N-Sotho)

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Lagenaria siceraria species
Lagenaria siceraria species
Lagenaria siceraria species


  • Annual
  • The Bowl Gourd is a vigorous annual vine with hairy stems up to 5 m long and soft, hairy heart-shaped leaves up to 400 mm long and 400 mm broad.
  • It bears solitary cream or white flowers that opens in the evenings and are pollinated by night-flying moths.
  • This is followed by large, variable green fruit with a flattened top and bottom, maturing yellowish to pale brown - the pulp drying out completely on ripening, leaving a thick, hard, hollow shell with almost nothing inside except the seeds.
  • The seeds are flat with two facial ridges and embedded in a spongy pulp.
  • It needs full sun and soil pH 6.5-7.
  • Bowl Gourd can be treated either as a prostrate ground cover or as a climber, in which case the maturing fruit will need some support.
  • Lagenarias have a long growing season (up to 120 days) and need early planting to mature before the end of the season.
  • By late summer water should be reduced to permit plants to slow growth and recently set fruits to mature and harden off.

Culinary Uses

  • In rural areas in Southern Africa, the leaves are commonly eaten as a vegetable and are added fresh to maize porridge.
  • A relish is also prepared from them, mixed with other plants.
  • Dried leaves are stored for use in the lean season.
  • The young shoots and tendrils may also be eaten as greens.

Parts Used

  • Let the gourds completely mature on the mother plant.
  • When harvesting - keep 4-5cm of stem still intact - do not tear the fruit from the plant.
  • Cut apart, scoop out the internal white flesh, and cure at room temperature.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • The bottle gourd is low in fat and cholesterol yet high in dietary fiber.
  • It contains 96% water and per 100g it contains around 12 calories.
  • It is rich in iron and has vitamins C and B complex.
  • Bottle gourd contains sodium of 1.8mg per 100g and 87 mg of potassium - making it a suitable vegetable for hypertensive patients.
  • It is easily digestible - excellent for light, low-calorie diets, small children, people with digestive problems, diabetics and convalescents.
  • Cooked bottle gourd is cooling, calming, anti-bilious and diuretic.
  • It helps treating urinary disorders - a glass of fresh bottle gourd juice mixed with lime juice combats the burning sensation caused by the high acidity of urine.
  • A glass of Bottle gourd juice with a little salt added, is an excellent remedy for excessive thirst caused by diarrhea, over consumption of fatty or fried foods and diabetes.
  • Juice from the Bottle gourd's leaves is good for jaundice.

For Animals. It is said that

  • Calabash can be used as bird feeders and nest boxes.

Other Uses

  • In rural Southern Africa, calabashes (dried and hollowed out Bottle Gourds) are used for typical utensils such as ladles, bowls, cups, bottles and containers to keep liquids, floats, pipes and musical instruments.
  • It can also be used for carrying water, or can be made for carrying items, such as maize, etc.
  • Painted and decorated products made from calabashes are also offered for sale at roadside stalls and curio markets.
  • In some countries it is worked, painted and decorated as shoulder bags or other items by artisans, and sold to tourists.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff
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