A green orb but not a pomelo…
…it is the fruit of a calabash tree (Crescentia cujete, Bignoniaceae)! This small tree (up to 10 m) is commonly planted in Chiang Mai as an ornamental but originally it comes from the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America. It should be grown in full sun on well drained soil. Cuttings root easily and are used for making living fences. The tree makes beautiful green blossom straight on the branches (it is cauliflorus). I have no pictures but will provide next year. The name ‘calabash tree’ is derived from the fact its hard rind can be used for making vessels, cups and spoons. The original calabash is a vine from Africa (Lagenaria siceraria, Cucurbitaceae).
A Crescentia cujete fruit maturing at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand (photo Nov. 8, 2011). Members of the bignonia family make very different fruits, such as flat edible sabers or long spirals. Many members of the bignonia family have winged seeds for wind dispersal, but not the calabash tree. It has been hypothesized that this fruit was once eaten by large mammals which were hunted to extinction by Native Americans. Today, horses seem to eat the fruits. I offered a slice of an immature fruit to our water buffalo, who likes banana and longan, but he rejected it. I threw in two pieces to our wild boars, and they fought over them. Then I sliced up half a fruit in eight pieces to give each piggy a chance, but then they just sniffed at the pieces and returned to me for something more tasty.
The diameter of this smaller immature fruit was 138 mm, the weight was 900 g and the rind was 3 mm thick. The fragrance is like a combination of sand, Scleroderma mushrooms, radish and cucumber. The huge number of seeds are dispersed within the pulp. The pulp oxidizes gray and is easy to detach from the rind by using your fingers. It has a spongy texture resembling that of immature puffballs. It is not considered food by the native South Americans, but a medicine against asthma, fever and worms. The heart-shaped seeds can be mashed and mixed with water to make a refreshing drink.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell