Fangu/en

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Fangu (and hina) are generic names for gourds or calabashes which have given their names to the daily word for bottle. For long time it was believed that Lagenaria siceraria was the plant that was called fangu in Tonga and west Polynesia and hue in east Polynesia. But this was recently shown to be false, as the Benincasa hispida var. pruriens is found in the west, and the hue, a different species, the Lagenaria siceraria, is found in the east.

The fangu (Benincasa) is an old introduction from Maleisia. It can be eaten when green, (but it is not sweet, despite its English name, wintermelon), and it can be made into bottle when ripe and dried up. Traditionally it is still used to store scented coconut oil (lolo).

When the Polynesians reached South America around 500 – 1000 AD, they returned home with 2 new plants, the kumala and the hue (Lagenaria). The latter was found to be much superior as a bottle, that the original Benincasa almost or completely died out in the east. Especially in Hawaiʻi and Easter island, where there was no bamboo to make water containers, the new gourds became very important. In Hawaiʻi they even became important attributes to the hula.

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