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Dudi, bottle gourd (Lagenaria sicceria)

How to grow Dudi (Bottle Gourd) | Growing Guides
Growing Guides Vegetables and herbs
Dudi or bottle gourd is one of the oldest cultivated crops, having been used by humans for more than 14,000 years. When they are mature the fruits (calabashes) are hardwearing, decorative and waterproof and can be made into light, hardwearing cooking or water-carrying utensils, musical instruments or birdhouses.
Growing calendar
Sow indoors May
Sow outdoors Better not to sow direct
Plant out Mate May - mid Jun
Harvest Aug - Sep

Dudis are vigorous trailing or climbing vines with night flowering white flowers, hard-skinned fruits, which are edible when young and relatively easy to grow. It’s grown throughout the tropics, where it is known under different names such as calabash, lauki, dudhi.

In the West, dudi is cultivated as an ornamental gourd, so necked or swollen fruit shapes are grown. Although all cultivars are edible, some are better flavoured than others. Elsewhere dudi is a valuable food source, so the tastier long thin cultivars are preferred, being easiest to prepare.

Skin colour varies in mature fruits from yellow & orange through browns, pale creams and mottled greens. There is a limited range of cultivars around in the UK but seeds sold as ‘Calabash Gourd’, ‘Serpente de Sicilia’ or ‘Snake Gourd’ usually turn out to be this plant.

How to grow a dudi

A single thriving dudi plant can climb to over 3m/12ft in every direction, so they need plenty of room and a solid support

Sow two seeds to a 10cm/4in pot of general-purpose peat-free compost in May. Discard the weaker seedling. They need at least 18C/65F to germinate.

Harden the plants off as soon as they have two or three true leaves (they will rapidly outgrow a windowsill) and plant out as soon as outside is warm enough, usually late May-early June. Space dudi 2m/6ft or more apart. Try growing dudi over a robust archway, pergola, or a stout framework made of posts no thinner than 5cm x 5cm/2 x 2in.

If needed, cover the young plants with horticultural fleece or newspaper overnight. Established plants are surprisingly resistant to cold.

If you want to grow dudi in a pot, it’ll need to be huge – at least 40cm/14in diameter – or only one plant per grow-bag. When growing in containers, feed weekly once the plant starts to flower, using comfrey liquid or a similar potash-rich feed (as for tomatoes.)

Expect to pick fruits from August onwards.


Dudi isn’t fussy about soil – a less fertile plot is useful in restricting the vigour of the vine - but it does appreciate a bean trench filled with half-decayed leafmould or coarse municipal compost where you plan to grow, prepared during the early spring. You could also use the old potting compost from last season’s container plants or hanging baskets.

Like all cucurbits they are liable to powdery mildew in humid summer conditions, with dry roots and warm moist air. If mildew develops, soak the roots regularly with water and remove the worst affected leaves. During cold wet weather the furry leaves trap moisture and can develop a grey rot or patches of mould (Botrytis): again, remove the worst infected leaves, and thin out the shoots or train them far apart to give the maximum air circulation around the plants.

Excess nitrogen produces leaves rather than fruit.

Dudi’s rampant growth squashes all in its path, so keep them restrained by snipping off tendrils or tying in rigorously every week!

Harvesting dudi or bottle gourds

Pick dudi when young and tender, any where from 15-18cm/6-8in long, and keep picking to produce new fruits, just like a courgette plant. They keep in the salad tray of the fridge for about a week to ten days but are best eaten fresh. Like marrows, dudi doesn’t freeze well so any surplus should be used in chutney or dhal or distributed to friends.

Bottle gourds are often favoured for their firm texture when cooked, but the bland flavour needs help from spices or other ingredients. Remove skin unless baked whole, as this is rather tough.

Traditionally in Asian cooking, young bottle gourds are cooked with spices and pulses to make a rich dhal. Larger specimens can be stuffed with meat and tomatoes and baked, or added to other vegetables in a stir-fry or curry.

In Africa and parts of the Caribbean, the young leaves are eaten as a green vegetables, either combined chopped with other greens and boiled to a soft texture or eaten with a hot pepper sauce.

Saving seeds from dudis

Challenging but possible! To set seed, the plant requires hand pollination of flowers. Dudi fruit should be left on the plant for as long as possible to help seeds mature.

Tie soft wool around the female flowerbud, just enough to prevent the petals parting. Flowers are most receptive from late afternoon to early morning. Take a soft brush and collect pollen from a male flower. Snip the string around the female flower and brush lightly against the centre of the female flower.

After pollination, tie a paper bag over the female flower, until the petals have withered and a fruit has set. Repeat this until you have three fruits per plant. Seed continues to mature for several months after the fruit has been removed from the plant, so keep at or above 9C. Harvest the seed when the fruit turns soft.

Scoop out the pulp and wash in a sieve to extract the seed from the flesh, then dry on kitchen paper in a warm, airy place. Store seed in a dark and cool place, in an envelope. Seeds will keep for two years.

Bottle gourds or dudi will not cross with other cucurbits such as squashes or pumpkins, so there is no need to isolate them.

Growing notes
Difficulty Medium
Germination time 14-21 days
Average time to harvest Around 3 months
Equipment needed Lots of room and substantial supports
Average plant size Climbs easily to 2.5m and spreads up to 20m
Family group to grow with Cucurbits
Key nutritional content High in fibre. Also contains calcium, zinc and potassium
Latin name Lagenaria sicceria
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Pick dudi when young and tender