Its common name may make you smile, but this curious vegetable, Calabash-Penis does exist! Discover the story of this unusual squash whose elongated fruit was used as the only clothing for men in certain societies in the highlands of New Guinea, but also in certain tribes of tropical Africa and South America.

A gourd, a real object of curiosity!

The calabash is an annual plant grown as a vegetable for its fruit. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the best known and most cultivated botanical family in the world. There is a wide variety of squashes around the world, in various colors and sizes. The botanical name of our mysterious vegetable that interests us today is Lagenaria siceraria ‘Penis Shield’, a variety with particularly thin fruits traditionally used by certain tribes, especially the Papuans, for making penis sheaths.

The Penis-Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria ‘Penis Shield’) after harvest.

A protective “zizi cover” and symbol of fertility!

Indeed, in some ethnic groups, notably in New Guinea, the penis sheath made from the emptied and dried calabash was the only garment worn by men. These dried gourds were traditionally tied with plant fibers at the waist or chest. Called “koteka” or “horim” among the Papuans, the penis sheaths are a symbol of fertility and also served as protection during battles.

In addition to its use as “clothing”, the Calabash-Penis is also traditionally used to make various decorative and utilitarian objects such as musical instruments, or as a toy (rattle) for children. It is sometimes also used as a gourd for carrying water.

How to grow Calabash-Penis in the vegetable garden?

Seeds are sown indoors, in a warm place, between the end of February and the end of April for planting in the vegetable garden around mid-May, after the last frosts. Do not hesitate to add a little compost at the foot of the calabash when planting, like other cucurbits, the penis-calabash appreciates rich soils. Even if there is very little chance that the wearing of the penis sheath will become fashionable here in the future, the culture of the gourd-penis remains no less interesting. 

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Amazing & Bizarre

Amazing & Bizarre is a gardening blog dedicated to curious gardeners and lovers of rare plants. Find all our natural gardening advice, our culture sheets, our original cooking recipes, our DIY tips and our creative ideas!

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