A Haitian Treasure: Kalbas (Calabash)

Calabash or Kalbas (in Haitian Kreyol), Lagenaria siceraria, is a member of the gourd family.  It is a small evergreen tropical tree with simple leaves and a rough bark.  Its fruits are light green, with white flesh and smooth skin. The fruit has a remarkable likeness to the shapes of bottles and bowls, with ranging lengths, widths, and colors depending on its variants. Kalbas is thought to be one of the first cultivated plants in the world, originating tens of thousands of years ago.  It is also believed to be a spiritual fruit, since it has incredible significance in a variety of world religions. Kalbas is grown all over the world, including Haiti.
Kalbas has special significance to the Haitian culture and the Voodoo religion.  In Haiti, the fruit is often called kalbas kouran, which translates to "running calabash".  This kalbas is used to make a "sacred rattle" in the Voodoo religion, called an asson, which summons the lwa. In the book, Haiti, Hisotry, and the Gods, Joseph Dayan presents a scenario where the calabash tree, also known as repossi, is described as a place were the spirits dwell, and as a source of strength, endurance, and protection.  It is also described as a means to transport sugar cane, palma christi oil, and milk.

Fun fact: Do you know how the Haitian currency got the name gourde? Well, calabash, a gourd, was once the national currency in the 1800's.  It had so much importance that the great King Henry Christophe of Haiti once declared that all gourds must become property of the state.
In Haiti, as in many other countries in the Caribbean, one of the biggest uses of kalbas is in the arts, where it is used to create everything from utensils and water jugs, to maracas and drums, to handbags and canvases, to masks and bongs. The list of kalbas' uses go on and on. There are plenty of Haitian sites and stores where you can view and purchase Calabash art.

Now let's talk about the healing benefits of Calabash.

Some Benefits:
  • anti-hypertensive
  • high in dietary fiber
  • contains Vitamin B and C, as well as minerals and trace elements
  • restores liver function
  • redices constipation

Suggested uses:
  • as a culinary ingredient
  • as a tea or syrup made from the leaf

In health,
Dr. Naika

The "Haitian Treasures" series was created by Dr. Naika in 2012. This series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which Dr. Naika calls "Haitian Treasures". In this series, Dr. Naika explores the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Naika's lifestyle blog, Naika in Balance. Dr. Naika's work is copyrighted. Please do not copy or repost Dr. Naika's work without citing her content as the original source.