Lagenaria, or calabash, - is still the most famous and little-known plant from the pumpkin family among gardeners. Its fruits are similar in color to zucchini, and in shape to cucumbers, or rather, to a highly elongated bottle. This is where its second name comes from - bottle gourd. This plant is popularly called Vietnamese or Indian squash or cucumber.
This plant is often mentioned in the oldest Chinese manuscripts, where it is indicated that even at that time the bottle lagenaria was considered the queen of all vegetables. It was specially grown at the imperial court for the manufacture of figured vases and other vessels, which the Chinese emperor presented to his subordinates as a sign of special favor.
Lagenaria It has also been cultivated for a long time in all countries of South Asia - from Vietnam to Iran and in most countries of tropical Africa, where it is still widely used for the manufacture of bowls, ladles, mugs, etc.
More than five centuries ago, the famous Russian explorer Afanasy Nikitin wrote in his book "Walking the Three Seas": "This cucumber is outlandish, very long and has a pretty good taste."
Young fruits of lagenaria look like a large zucchini. They taste good and have a very high dietary quality. When they are small (up to 50 cm long), they are eaten like ordinary cucumbers, to which they are in no way inferior in taste. But the most delicious Lagenaria dish is caviar, which is prepared like a squash and surpasses the latter in taste.
The fruits are canned, pickled, sometimes even young stems and leaves are used for food. Since the peel of unripe fruits is thin and soft, it is not removed when pickling.
Lagenaria - a liana-like plant with a creeping stem up to 10-15 meters long and up to 2.5-3 cm thick at the base. Even the lateral branches, with sufficient food and moisture, stretch in length up to 5-6 meters. The mighty vine is very decorative. Its leaves are extremely picturesque. They are very large, velvety, with soft tomentose pubescence, and have long petioles. A gazebo entwined with numerous tenacious shoots, immersed in a sea of greenery and large white flowers, hanging from the hedge like giant candles, the fruits of lagenaria - all this creates a fantastic sight.
The plant has an extremely powerful root system. Its main root is thick and penetrates the soil to a depth of 80 cm, and the lateral roots reach a length of 3 meters or more. It is also very interesting that Lagenaria quickly forms not only underground, but also aerial roots.
The peculiarity of the development of lagenaria is abundant and long flowering. Lagenaria flowers are very large, goblet, dioecious. They are light cream in the morning and almost white in the evening. Male flowers have long stalks, female flowers are short and thicker. Lagenaria flowers fade very quickly. But some flowers fall, others immediately appear, and the whole plant stands in bloom until late autumn.
The fruits are of various shapes - from cylindrical and serpentine to spherical and bottle-shaped. In addition, the fruit can be shaped as desired by placing the ovaries in wooden molds that will fill with the growing fruit.
In the gardens, mainly lagenaria forms are grown with elongated fruits, which, with an abundance of nutrition, can grow up to 2 meters long and up to 10 cm in diameter. The surface of such a fruit is smooth, with dense pubescence, which quickly disappears.
Lagenaria is a fruitful plant, from one bush you can get up to 40 kg of fruits, each of which can reach a length of 2 m, and their average weight is 6-8 kg. The size of the fruits is regulated by the pinching of the lateral shoots and the number of ovaries left on the plant.
At the time of consumer maturity (with a fruit length of up to 50-60 cm), the pulp of the fruit is tender, and the skin is thin.With further growth and maturation of such a fruit, its tissues dry up, and the skin stiffens, turning into a real "tank armor". That is why ripe fruits of lagenaria are practically not suitable for food. The seeds are large, irregularly rectangular, usually brown or light yellowish-brown.
Lagenaria is demanding on heat, light and moisture, like a true southerner from the humid tropics, but she does not tolerate excess moisture. Under normal observance of these conditions, its shoots grow by 10-15 cm per day, and the fruits by 5-6 cm or more. Heat and drought lagenaria tolerates well enough, however, the growth of shoots and fruits at this time is significantly reduced.
The place for growing should be chosen the sunniest, best on the southern side of the building, on a small southern slope, well protected from the cold wind. It is extremely thermophilic and does not tolerate even the slightest frost.
Lagenaria loves fertile, structured soil with a deep arable layer, well fertilized with humus. She generally does not tolerate acidic soils and close standing groundwater. On highly moist and nutritious soils, the plant is able to build up a large vegetative mass and give large fruits. Therefore, when preparing the soil for its cultivation in the fall, 2 buckets of rotted manure must be added to 1 square meter of beds, 2 tbsp each. tablespoons of superphosphate and 1 tbsp. spoon potassium sulfate, 0.5 cups of wood ash and dig deep.
In the spring, after the snow melts, the bed is loosened, after adding 1 teaspoon of ammonium nitrate per 1 sq. meter. Before planting seedlings, the bed is loosened again, and then holes are made.
In the Urals and in other regions with a short summer, lagenaria can be grown outdoors only by seedlings. To do this, in the last days of April, 30–35 days before planting seedlings in open ground, it is necessary to begin preparing seeds for sowing.
Its seeds have a very hard peel, so before sowing, they are first soaked for 20-30 minutes in hot water with a temperature of 45-50 degrees, and then for 2-3 days they are germinated in a wet tissue or in raw sawdust in a warm place with a temperature not less than 30 degrees.
To significantly accelerate the germination of Lagenaria seeds, some gardeners very carefully file with a file the woody skin of the upper tip of the seed.
The seeds that have been baked are planted to a depth of 2 cm in cardboard bags with a capacity of at least 1 liter, filled with a nutritious peat-distilled mixture and river sand, taken in a ratio of 2: 1. Usually two seeds are placed in a bag. The bags are placed in a box, covered with foil to create a humid microclimate and placed in a warm place.
Under favorable temperature conditions and sufficient moisture, seedlings will appear in 10-12 days. After that, the boxes must be immediately transferred to the southern sunny windowsill and the film must be removed from them. Only the strongest plant should be left in each bag.
Plants should be regularly watered with warm water. With a good composition of the soil mixture in packages, seedlings should not be fertilized, because, having a violent growth, the seedlings can outgrow, stretch out and greatly pamper. But you need to periodically pour a loose nutrient mixture into the bag. At the same time, the stem of the plant thickens, and the seedlings become more compact.