Turning Packie Into Calabash

The Rasta culture in Jamaica is prominent and diverse, ranging from the knot haired, toothless bushman to the bible quoting, hat wearing preacher. Most who wear locks are vegetarian but not all eat ital, which is essentially extreme veganism: no meat, dairy, salt or processed food. This also goes for plates and bowls, which is fortunate because the Packie Tree grows in abundance here. Packie is a hard shelled, gourd-like fruit (that you can’t eat) that rasta turn into plates, bowls, instruments, boxes and all sorts of fun things. Packie ranges in size so extremely that they can make cups and they can make serving plates. Once dried for its intended purpose, “Packie” becomes “Calabash”, and is recognized Island Wide as a symbol of Jamaican culture. Every year “Calabash”, the largest literary festival in Jamaica takes place in Treasure Beach and features some of Jamaicas most famous quick patois chatting poets and musicians.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to try my hand at making a Calabash bowl since I ate out of one at Zionites Farm during training. Here’s what I did:

First Pick yo Packie. A fruit that is green turning brown is ready to pick, like the one below. Next saw it (don’t machete it or it’ll crack in undesired places) in half depending on what you want to make. I chose to make two shallow bowls so I sawed it from stem to navel. For a cup you might choose to saw off the top piece- be creative and look around Jamaica for ideas, people do all sorts of things with these useful fruits.

calabash 006

I sawed my packie with a seraded kitchen knife, but make sure it’s sharp and carry a washcloth or towel with you- once you break through the shell, the insides make grip difficult. I wished I had a vice but I imagine that would scar the outside and it wouldn’t look so neat. The inside smells kind of like an American Apple. DON’T eat it, rumor is that it’s poisonous, plus, it doesn’t look super tasty.

calabash 002

calabash 003

Once you have the gourd sawed in half, use a spoon to gut the inside. Here is where I made a mistake.

Once the pulp comes out there’s still a white layer in there that needs to be scraped out too, it has the consistency of the white skin on an orange or grapefruit.

calabash 004

If you don’t scrape it out and go on to dry it, this is what you get:

calabash 007

A well scraped (and dried) gourd looks like this:

calabash 010

Once it’s scraped, leave it out in the sun until it dries. Dry it facing down, so the shell is on the outside. Once it turns brown, you can take it in, usually it only takes a day. I decided to wash mine thoroughly with the rough side of a sponge, due to my previous mistake, but they dry quick. So I promptly made my first meal and ate out of it!

Snapshot_20121106_3 YUM.

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