The Calebassier (the tree of calebasse)
Crescentia cujete L. - Bignoniaceae
The Calebassier or Calebasse Tree is a small tree originating from continental America. The Calebassier, with its short trunk covered in white grey bark, grows to a height of 3-8 metres with long near-horizontal branches with fan like glossy green leaves
The trunk and branches produce pretty white flowers which generate the fruit Calebasse.
The size of the fruit ranges from that of a pear to a pumpkin with a 10-35cm diameter. The fruit can be elongated or round in shape with a woody husk.
A durable seed is found at the fruit’s center and is often used to create receptacles “couis” most commonly as plates.
The calebasse has held a place in Caribbean culture predating western contact: Padre Labat, early missionary, wrote of the Indians’ practice of decorating the shell with cuts and designs.
Examples of such work are still produced by local artisans. It is above all for its domestic usefulness that the Calebassier is popular from cups and bowls to spoons and utensils.
Once the shell has been hollowed out and well cleaned it is polished before being left to dry and can then also be used to hold liquids. It is also possible to boil water and cook with a Calebassier over an open fire.
The Calebasse from Central America is distinguished from that of Africa which is in fact more like a pumpkin, decorated and used primarily in rituals or for ornamental purposes
The therapeutic properties
The pulp is used fresh and cold as a burn treatment. The fruit can also be used as a headache remedy and the pulp produces a juice that is suitable for treating colic and used for animals with digestion problems.
It was also used, in combination with other herbal medicines, to treat animals with worms and to increase milk production in pregnant cows.
The fruit’s essence is also recommended in the treatment of respiratory and pulmonary illnesses as well as certain intestinal disorders.