Morro/Calabash Tree/Crescentia cujete

Have you ever wondered if the fruit of the Calabash tree is edible? Here’s the interesting answer to your question.

Going back to my obsessed childhood memories, I remember we were quite lucky that my grandparents had a large open piece of land at the back of their house. I remember there were three big Calabash trees, planted some years earlier by my (now deceased) Grandpa. After school, weekends and during summer, we climbed the trees and sat in the branches, enjoying the cool breezes and gazing out over the rooftops and fields, to see what was beyond. My grandmother spent most of my childhood under them telling me to get down and how dangerous it was. We had used to climbed and climbed before dusk until about 6:00 pm, because at night, the pale yellow flowers blooms and emits a strong odor that attracts bats! As long as I remember, we never ate the fruit; but all we drank horchata from the seeds. The fruit flesh is used as medicine, but apart from that it is NOT EDIBLE!

The Calabash tree (Crescentia cujete) called Morro or Jicara in Spanish and luch in Maya, (not to be confused with the calabash vine) is native to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and South America. The species are small trees growing to 33 ft tall. It produces a toxic spherical fruit that grows up to 12 inches in diameter. 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 and bronchitis.

Both the flowers and the fruits are exotically beautiful. Calabash blooms and bears fruit throughout the year. The flowers are a bright, light green, shaped delicately like bells. The flowers grow directly from the trunk or branches and open up at night. The green ball-shaped or oval, smooth fruits have a hard shell and turn brown when ripe. The seeds inside are surrounded by light-colored fruit flesh.

Before modern utensils became generally available to poor people in Mesoamerica, the calabash tree was very valuable. There are many sizes and several distinct shapes of calabash, and each is put to special uses. The smaller one is made into dishes, cups, dippers, spoons and containers. The large, spherical calabashes are fitted with handles and are used as primitive rafts by fisherman. More commonly, the larger calabashes are cut in halves for holding grain or other dry materials. In Central America, the seeds of the Calabash fruit are toasted and ground with other ingredients (including rice, cinnamon, and allspice) to make the drink Horchata, and the hard outer shell is cut in half, dried and used as cups to serve Atol Chuco. Taino used the gourds to make instruments, the maracas and the guiro. The tree inspires devotion in a religious people: Its distinctive leaves are shaped like crosses and transfixed early Spanish explorers of the Americas.

According to folklore historians the Calabash tree contains a story of a confrontation between good and evil, played out in the form of a ballgame. The Mayas played this game as a ceremonial event.  This was done in honor of the Jaguar.
In Mayan belief the Jaguar is also a god.  The story goes on to tell how the Calabash tree was considered to be a sacred, forbidden tree. In Mayan belief females were forbidden to go near the tree.  The tree would spit on any woman who went near it and she would become pregnant.  One Mayan princess however defied the rules and ventured near the calabash tree and she became pregnant with twins.  She gave birth to twin boys and when they grew up the demons of the underworld challenged them to a ballgame.  The boys tricked and defeated the demons.  The demons became enraged and threatened to burn the boys to death. Although, the jaguar rescued them and placed them both in heaven.  One boy became the sun, and the other the moon.  The Mayas then played the ball game Pok-ta-pok as a reenactment of the game between the twins and the demons of the underworld and in honor of the jaguar that saved them.  After every game, the winners were sacrificed.

About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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8 Responses to Morro/Calabash Tree/Crescentia cujete

  1. akamonsoon says:

    Those carvings are beautiful! They remind me of a few of the ornaments I had for the tree this year. Very interesting story behind that game. I certainly would not want to be the winner of that game, that’s for sure!

    • zoom50 says:

      I am always mesmerized by carvings, especially those of such outstanding beauty.
      It sure is interesting game. And a bit…frightening too. I would not even participate in the games!! Lol

  2. Anonymous says:

    can i learn this game please give details of this game thank you

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  4. Aida Payton says:

    very interesting story of Cujete, fruits When I was young we don’t pay attention about this. I saw a lot of this in the mountain and there just wild fruits. But being pregnant to go under to that. I don’t know because I used to go under with that tree. I never get pregnant, but the shell is very useful. I don’t even know there Medicinal. I don’t even know that shell is very beautiful for display. I learn for todays new lesson. I goes I have to teach these people where I come from that. Cujete, leaves is Medicinal. And shell is very beautiful

  5. Eve from Paradise says:

    Mike…very interesting video but I’m wondering if it only pertains to Crescentia alata as the tree I have and this article is about is Crescentia cujete?

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