I have this tree in the garden close to the restaurant and so many people ask me what kind of fruit it is.

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but really it not an edible fruit but it is what the Maya used to make their drinking and eating vessels from before plastic came along. I know it as Lec but to be honest I am not sure that is the real name.


The ‘fruit’ is quite  heavy and sometimes I wonder how the tree holds them up. Once they drop to the ground they hit with a thud so I always tell people not to stand directly under one of the ‘fruits’ as they may just knock you out!

The shell is very hard and quite impossible to cut with a knife . The process is to cut down the ‘fruit’ then to boil until it becomes soft then it can be cut to how one would like it.The insides are scrapped out and the shells are put into the sun to dry and harden. Be warned… the insides  really do ‘stink’ even when rotting on the tree or rotting on the ground we have to make sure they are discarded because of the smell.

Some local artesanias are actually using their artistic skills to produce some very lovely keepsakes . The one below was made by Pedro who owns El Mirador… a look out on the way from Uxmal to Muna.If you are in the area you should pop in and see what he has… not only that ,the view from his place is amazing. If you tell him you know Valerie at The Pickled Onion he may just give you a discount on some items.


The sad thing is most are chopping the tree down because with plastic containers and plates etc it no longer serves a purpose. I have the feeling that if it is not preserved it will soon go extinct.

When the land was first being cleaned ready to start the building on the restaurant/kitchen the workers told me it needed to be cut down. I soon halted that one with a no! we must preserve it.It has grown a lot in the last 7 years and produces lots of “fruit”.

Eric, one my employees, found some seedlings close to the tree and mentioned he had never seen seedlings grow before. He always thought that one had to take a branch of the tree and transplant. Now we have about 8 baby trees growing and  my intention is to plant them around the place… but if you are interested in having one please let me know . I would hate to see this species go extinct!

About thepickledonionyucatan

Born in England emigrated to Canada and now reside in the Yucatan Mexico. LIfe is a journey so enjoy as much as you can
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6 Responses to Lec/Gourdes

  1. Tara says:

    I hope the tourists don’t pick the fruit expecting to eat it! Maybe put a sign up, or next project create a photo/ word book of the trees/plants most asked about for viewing? Just what you need another project, haha! Love you!

  2. It is quite hard to just go and pick one as they are so so heavy and thank you for the idea of making signs… like you said Tara do I really want another project ha!ha! Love you too!

  3. Lynn says:

    Is it a calabash tree? If so, grows throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. The fruit has medicinal uses and the shell, formerly used for storage containers, is currently prized for creating artful objects like masks, decorative bowls, baskets, etc.


    • Yes you are correct Lynn It is a calabash tree but known to the Maya as Lec…and again you are right it does have medicinal properties, of which I did not know but do now, thank you .I Dont think I would like to use it as I said it does smell quite bad.There are two kinds I have seen around here growing on trees. One is the oblong which I have and the other is more rounded.There is another kind that grows on a vine and this they used to use for their tortillas keeping them warm.Then the other more shapely that they used to carry water in ,into the fields .

  4. Heather says:

    As always, Valerie, I learn much through your blog about the Maya. What a fascinating and incredible culture! I remember you had (and I hope still have) a ceiba tree on your property…the sacred tree of the Maya. Keep well.

    • Heather I still have the Ceiba tree and it is really tall and beautiful and also a baby that is growing along side .I look at them often and see how well the mother looks after her baby! I am blest!

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