Monday, September 10, 2007
Before modern utensils became generally available to poor people in the Caribbean, the calabash tree was very valuable. Its large and heavy gourd-like fruits with their tough skin was degutted, cleaned and used as water containers, bowls, cups, bailers for boats, and bases for lanterns.
In Suriname, carving calabashes is a popular craft among women in Maroon communities The carvers produce decorated bowls and other utensils to be given as gifts or to be used at home or in rituals.
Calabash utensils do not last long. As the calabash ages, it looses moisture, becomes increasingly brittle, and eventually breaks.
The pulpy insides of the fruit were used, sometimes together with the leaves, in the preparation of folk medicine. They were boiled with sugar to make a syrup that was used to treat coughs, colds, asthma, bronchitis and lung congestion.
At night, the pale yellow flowers of the calabash tree blooms and emits a pungent odor that attracts bats. The bats visit the calabash flowers to sip nectar and in the process pollinates them.