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Calabasas Squash for Better Nutrition

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 11 months ago
Kalabasa as a "Tool" to help Dry Malnutrition


Description and Rationale


Dry Malnutrition is as severe form of protein energy malnutrition that is differentiated by dry skin, a drastic loss in tissue around areas where there is usually fat and loose skin folds. Dry Malnutrition is one of the most common types of malnutrition found in the Philippines. One of the main areas where dry malnutrition is the worst in the Philippines is in Tondo, Manila. There are thousands upon millions of kids, who are diagnosed with malnutrition. There are 15.2 million people in the Philippines who have problems with malnutrition. Every 3.6 seconds a child dies from hunger, every minute 16 children die from hunger, and every hour 960 children die from hunger. Malnutrition is not just an issue in the Philippines; sadly it is a known issue around the whole world! Hundreds of kids die every single day from malnutrition and hunger, and yet there are SO many obese people in the United States, and in other places in the world. Most poor kids would be extremely grateful for just a small meal, let alone a small piece of fruit. These kids lack a high deficiency of Vitamin A in their diets, and that is why they have problems with malnutrition. A fruit that has a lot of Vitamin A in it, and can be accessed in the Philippines, is Kalabasa (squash).

What exactly is Kalabasa? What nutrients are in it? How can it help dry malnutrition? How can it be grown? Does it need a certain climate/temperature? Can just anyone grow it? Does it need a certain soil? Why is Kalabasa used as a main cure for dry malnutrition and not other fruit? Does it have a slow or fast affect on kids with malnutrition? Do many people know that it can help malnutrition? What are all the benefits for using Kalabasa?

Are there any places where a lot of Kalabasa can be grown mainly for people with dry malnutrition? If you drive through the Philippines, the main cities especially, there are squatter villages everywhere. Most of the people who live in there are poorly fed. Many kids that are seen running around are very sickly looking. This is due in part to the lack of vitamin A in their diet and the iron that they lack. Kalabasa can help those with dry malnutrition. There are no benefits to dry malnutrition, but the number of how many people have it can decrease if more people were fed Kalabasa and just helped out. The government should help the people who cannot provide this Kalabasa or other resources for themselves, or their families. Having all these people living on the streets and having lack of nutrition is not going to benefit the Philippines at all. These kids need a better home, and some good food and health care. If they are not helped, then they will all eventually die. What is the best way to communicate to the government, and surrounding people about this particular issue? What is the best way to cultivate more Kalabasa for those in need?

The initial purpose of this project is to research on how Kalabasa helps dry malnutrition in Manila, Philippines. Through a search of information, along with firsthand observations and interviews with people, who are experienced with Kalabasa and using it to help kids with malnutrition (such as Charity and Evan Graph who are in charge of Gentle Hands Ministry, who take care of orphan’s and kids in unhealthy situations), I hope that this will help me better understand all that involves Kalabasa and using it as a cure for dry malnutrition.

I hope to know almost everything I can about Kalabasa so that I will know how to use it to help kids with dry malnutrition. How I can help people if I see that they have it, and how I can be an impact to those people. To be able to know what to do in the types of circumstances where there are a lot of people who struggle with “dry malnutrition.” To know how to grow Kalabasa (squash); how to cultivate it; and learn how I can teach others how to cultivate it in order for them to feed their families.




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Common Names and Synonyms

There are many different names for squash. In Tagalog squash is known as Kalabasa. Other names for Kalabasa are: Cucurbitaargyrosperma, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita pepo. All of these different names mean the same thing, squash. These four different names are only referred to in certain countries. Most people will not recognize these names as being squash. Only certain areas will recognize the names. Another name for Kalabasa is askutasquash, which literally means "a green thing eaten raw."



Kingdom:     Plantae

Phylum:        Magnoliophyta

Class:            Magnoliopsida (comprising seed plants that produce an embryo with

paired cotyledons and net-veined leaves)

Order:            Cucurbitales (flowering plants)

Family:          Cucurbitaceae (a family of herbaceous vines)

Genus:          Cucurbita (type genus of the Cucurbitaceae)

Species:       C.pepo (the characteristic fruit of plants of the gourd family, having a

fleshy, many-seeded interior and a hard or firm rind, as the gourd, melon, and



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Morphology and Physical Description

 Kalabasa is often thought of as a vegetable, but it is in fact considered a fruit, and classified as a certain berry. Kalabasa has an herbaceous vine that climbs, or grows prostrate, for four meters or more. Its leaves are rounded and are 15-30 cm in diameter. The leaves are heart-shaped at the base, shallowly 5-lobed, and have finely toothed margins. Its leaves are hispid, which means that they are rough with stiff hairs, bristles, or minute spines. Kalabasa’s flowers are yellow and sort of bell shaped, they stand upright, plus they grow to about 12 cm in length. Male flowers have longer peduncles (The stalk of a stalk bearing solitary flower, or an inflorescence in a one-flowered inflorescence) than the female flowers. The fruit (kalabasa) that the flowers produce are large, with a yellow pulp, and have a fleshy look to them. Kalabasa’s also come from Korean seeds.


The seeds inside the Kalabasa are egg-shaped or oblong, and are compressed. They look very much like pumpkin seeds. The seeds grow to be about 1.3 cm long. Kalabasa has a thicker or denser meat than regular squash. The meat inside is much sweeter, and has much more juice in it. Near the rind of the Kalabasa, the fruit is a darker yellow, but closer to the middle where the seeds are, it becomes more of an orange color. Their color is a cream color like in the picture shown on the right. The texture of the fruit is that of a melon, except it is much softer and is not as juicy. It tastes sort of like a pumpkin except that it is sweeter, the meat is softer, and it has a lot more flavor.



 Getting Food


Kalabasa is a certain type of plant that is green; therefore it has chloroplasts and can perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when plants absorb carbon dioxide in the air, produce sugar and starch, and break apart the water, and in the end releasing oxygen into the air. Since Kalabasa can perform Photosynthesis it is known as an autotroph. An autotroph can make its own energy and food from the sun instead of eating off of other organisms. The term Thermoperiod refers to daily temperature change. The best time for plants to grow is when the daytime temperature is about 10 to 15 degrees higher than the normal nighttime temperature. During this period, plants photosynthesize (build up) and respire (break down) during the optimum temperatures during the day, and then begin to curtail respiration at night. However, many plants grow best under the same range between night and day time temperatures. E.g. snapdragons probably grow best during the night temperatures of 55°F; poinsettias grow best at 62°F.  Temperatures that are higher than are wanted or needed, increase the respiration, which then sometimes go above the rate of photosynthesis. Therefore, photosynthates are used much more speedily than they are actually produced. In order for growth to take place, photosynthesis must be greater than respiration. The daytime temperatures that appear too low can often produce a poorer growth by actually slowing down the process of photosynthesis. The result is the reduced yield. E.g. fruit or grain production.



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Plants with flowers reproduce through what is called pollination. There is a pollen-bearing male and an ovary-bearing female; both of these forms are present on the plant. To have the fruit set, the pollen from the male flower has to be transferred to the female flower, in order to pollinate. The pollen is very sticky, and cannot be moved by the wind. One can tell when there is a problem with pollination when the squash fruits grow 2 or 3 inches, and then shrivel and dry up. Squash is a fruit that cannot cross-pollinate. The female flowers of each can only be fertilized by pollen from the same species. However, different varieties will cross-pollinate within each of the species.


Other ways to pollinate are through hand pollination and bee pollination.

Historically, squash had been pollinated by the Native American Squash Bee, also known as the Peponapis pruinosa. Sadly, this bee had probably declined due to the pesticide sensitivity. Most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees today. In order to improve pollination through honeybees, one must encourage the honeybees to visit ones garden. If the honeybees do not come, then the other option is to hand pollinate. One must use a small artist’s paintbrush in order to transfer the pollen, or the male flower may be broken off, and have its petals removed in order to expose the pollen-bearing structure. The pollen can then be rolled onto the stigma, the structure that is in the middle of the female flower. The pollen is yellow and is produced in the middle of the male flower. Early in the day, the flowers begin to open and can be receptive for only one day. When hand pollinating, it is very important that one uses only flowers that are freshly opened.




Environmental Factors

There are many key factors such as temperature, germination, flowering, crop quality, photosynthesis and respiration. All of which have an equal role in the environmental factors of plants (Kalabasa).

Temperature: Some plants need cold weather to grow, and others need accessibly hot weather to grow. Temperature influences the plant processes, which includes transpiration, respiration, germination and flowering. When temperature increases, photosynthesis, transpiration and respiration also increase. Temperature also affects the change from a plants vegetative (leafy) to reproductive (flowering) growth. The temperature can do two things; it can either speed up or slow down this transition, but depending on the situation and specific plant.

Germination: The temperature that is required in order for a plant to germinate varies depending on species.  During cool-season, crops like spinach, radish, and lettuce germinate the best at lower temperatures, such as 55° to 65°F. Warm season crops like to germinate best at 65° to 75°F. Examples of warm season crops are: kalabasa, tomatoes, petunias and lobelias.

Flowering:  Flowers also need good temperatures in order to bloom. Some need cooler temperatures then others, some need hotter temperatures. If the temperatures are high and the days are longer, then the cool-season crops will flower, such as spinach. However, if the temperatures are cooler than what the flower can handle, the fruit will not set on warm-season crops (e.g. tomatoes).

Crop Quality: With low temperatures, energy use decreases and sugar storage increases. It then leaves crops such as ripe winter squash on the vines during cool, fall nights, which increases the crops sweetness. However, adverse temperatures can cause stunted growth of the vegetables, making them poor-quality. E.g. High temperatures cause lettuce to taste bitter.


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Origin and Distribution

The word “squash” (kalabasa) comes from the word askutasquash, “eaten raw or uncooked,” which is a Massachuset Indian word. Kalabasa is native to the Western Hemisphere. The name C. maxima, is now represented by different varieties such as Hubbard, Delicious, Marblehead, Boston Marrow, and Turks Turban. Kalabasa originally came from northern Argentina near the Andes, or in specific Andean valleys. During the time of the Spanish conquest, Kalabasa had been discovered in such areas, and since that time, Kalabasa had never been found anywhere else, except where man had carried it. Kalabasa, unlike maize and tomatoes, had not been brought into North American or Central America, or even into northern South America, at the time in which the New World was discovered.  The Old World did not know of Kalabasa until the 16th century.

C. moschata, is a long-vine plant, and is native to Mexico and Central America. C. moschata along with C pepo, developed, and were discovered in originally the same area, which are Mexico and Central America. Both the C. moschata, and the C. pepo, are important food plants of the natives, next to maize and beans. These two species had been carried over all parts of North America where they could be cultivated, but no one had carried it into South America like the beans had, which had originated in generally the same area as the Kalabasa. Kalabasa’s were generally grown by Indian tribes all over the U.S. Many tribes, mostly in the West, still grow many types of hardy squashes and pumpkins that cannot be found in markets today.

Kalabasa are grown a lot in tropical America, Japan, and certain areas in the U.S. Kalabasa of the West Indies, and other forms grown by the natives of Central America and Mexico, are not of uniform, or as pure of varieties like are grown today. It is also grown throughout the Philippines as a vegetable produce.

After World War II in Japan, Kalabasa’s were found growing on the trellises over doorways, on the sides of houses; even on the foundations of buildings that were completely burned down, vines were also growing. Squash were even growing over, or beside small streams on the horizontal trellises of poles.



Importance to People

Kalabasa has a lot of good things in it. It contains:  5.2% of pentosan; 14.2% protein; 9/3% ash; and only 10% fat. Protein is very good for you and that is what Kalabasa contains the most of. Kalabasa is also an excellent source of Vitamin B and A. Vitamin A is what gives people the iron that they need and is one of the most important vitamins to humans. The shoots and flowers contain a lot of calcium, iron, and phosphorus. The fruit itself contains a lot of calcium and vitamin A. If one does not have enough vitamin A in their diet, they can become blind or have problems with malnutrition.

Kalabasa can also help several types of sores. The fruit pulp is used as a poultice, for sores such as carbuncles, boils, and ulcers. The dried pulp is also a remedy for haemoptysis (coughing up blood from the respiratory tract) and hemorrhages from the pulmonary organs that are given in the form of a confection.  The fruit stalk that is attached with the ripe gourd is cut, dried, and made into a paste. That paste is then applied to venomous insect bites, to take the pain away. It especially helps centipede bites. The fresh seeds are used as antihelminthiceeds, which are eaten fresh as a way to dispose of the worms in ones stomach. The seeds are also used for urinary diseases as a diuretic. Kalabasa’s oil from the seeds is also used as a nervine tonic.




Survivability and Endangered Status

Some plants are having a hard time surviving and have an endangered status; therefore science has created a new type of technology called biotechnology. Biotechnology is the development of products and process that are based on recombinant DNA. Biotechnology has had a considerably high amount of direct impact on crop protection in some areas, and will continue to become even more so significant in the years to come. Current research and development programs use this technology to do a genetic modification of crops which confer pest and disease resistance and herbicide tolerance. The use of this study is to examine the function and structure of genes and of their molecular markers, to breed resistant diseased crops. Scientists also study the detection and identification of the pests and pathogens, which even includes those which exhibit insensitivity to insecticides and fungicides. Scientists also study the identification of weeds which exhibit insensitivity to herbicides. Lastly, they study the production of plants that are genetically improved by their biological control agents and pesticides.




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Potential Solutions

 Is Kalabasa a good tool to help Dry Malnutrition? It has been discussed and tested that Kalabasa is a very good source to help people with Dry Malnutrition. A main reason why people are diagnosed with malnutrition is because of the lack of Vitamin A in their diets. Without Vitamin A, one can become very sick and even come to the point where they can become blind. Due to an abundance of research, it has been found that Kalabasa has a lot of Vitamin A in it, which is just the source that people with malnutrition lack. There are several different possibilities that may be able to benefit people with Dry Malnutrition in Tondo, and in other places in the Philippines and in the world. Below are four possibilities with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages for different ways that Kalabasa can help Dry Malnutrition.


Possibility 1

Teach Them How to Prepare Kalabasa

Many people do not know how to prepare Kalabasa the right way. If you cook Kalabasa, or any kind of fruit or vegetable too long, it will take out all of the nutrients in it. If they are taught to cook it the right way, then it will help their kids with malnutrition. Often times we like to add lots of different ingredients to help enhance the flavor, but if added too much, it takes out the whole purpose of trying to get that Vitamin A, for it would have just been polluted by the other ingredients. Kalabasa can be prepared in different ways with ingredients that are easy and cheap to get, and that taste good as well.


1. If cooked right, Kalabasa can really help people recover from malnutrition.

2. They can then pass on this method to other people, and those people can pass it on to others and so on.

3. It makes it so that the people are not always dependent on others to help them, but that they need to learn that they can help themselves.


1. They might not care, and say that they know how to cook, and that they do not like to be told what to do.

2. They may have a certain way of doing things, and do not like to learn new techniques and methods.

3. They may get too attached to one teaching them and helping them all the time that they may not want to do it without ones help.



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Possibility 2

Give People Nutritional Facts on Kalabasa

Kalabasa has a very rich source of Vitamin A in it. Kalabasa is rich in other nutrients but the main one is Vitamin A. Vitamin A is what helps us maintain healthy hair, skin, and our mucous membranes. This vitamin also helps us to be able to see in soft light. We need Vitamin A in order to have good bone growth, reproduction and tooth development. It also helps one not become blind. Most people do not know the contents of Kalabasa and how it can help people with malnutrition. They just see it as being a vegetable, that when cooked right it tastes really good. They need to be educated in this area, so that they know exactly how to help their children/child with this sickness.


1. Knowing nutritional facts can help people make wiser decisions on what they need to eat.

2. They can learn how they can help people with malnutrition.

3. They can use that knowledge they have learned and spread it to other people.

4. Our bodies are God’s temple; therefore we must take care of our bodies. We need to eat the right foods, and exercise, and help keep our bodies that He gave us healthy. God gave us these bodies and so we need to take care of them.


1. Nutritional food does not always taste good, and candy is a lot better, so why not just

spend money on unhealthy and cheap things.

2. They may not take it literally and to heart that this is very important.



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Possibility 3

A Kalabasa Cookbook

Through taste tests I have found that Kalabasa does not taste very good at all. Kalabasa does not have much flavor; it has the texture of a sweet potato, and lacks the flavor. Many people may not eat it because they do not know how to cook it right. If there was a cookbook with all Kalabasa recipes that can be given to the people in the squatter villages, with ingredients that they can easily buy, then maybe they would rethink the whole situation and eat it more often. It is fairly cheap too and can be easily found in any market nearby.


1.      The people would not have to go and buy a Kalabasa recipe book, but if made by someone it could be given out for free.

2.      After eating the same recipe day after day, one gets sick of it. With a cookbook on different ways to cook Kalabasa, one can have many different options on how they would like to prepare it.


  1. The recipes may include ingredients that they might not be able to get, or ones that they cannot afford.

  1. They may not know how to cook a lot of the recipes in there if they are in English, and     they cannot speak English; therefore it must be written in Tagalog.

  1. Some of the recipes may be unhealthy, and they need to eat healthy in order to help malnutrition.



Possibility 4 

Cooking Recipes with Accessible Ingredients (Action Step)

One of the main things is that they need to be able to cook recipes that they have the ingredients for. They need to be able have ingredients that are cheap and can be found easily. Therefore the recipes cannot be all that explicit, but easy so that it can be accessible as well as something that tastes good. I cooked two different Kalabasa recipes, and then had several people taste them to see whether they liked them or not. One recipe was Kalabasa cooked with onions, garlic, and some green beans. A cup of water was then added with half a chicken cube, and put on to steam. It is served on top of rice. The chicken cube adds flavor, but does not pollute the nutrients of the Kalabasa and other ingredients, it is just enough so that it will taste good. The second recipe was Kalabasa cooked in coconut milk served with rice. Coconut milk is easy to get and gives the Kalabasa lots of flavor.


  1. With cooking and testing recipes myself, I can now help others determine how to cook Kalabasa in a way that is easy and tastes really good.

  1. The people can be happy to know that they can be educated on how to cook recipes that taste good and are cheap.


  1. Not everyone may like the same thing as others, and may not like how it is cooked.

  1. Here we are trying to find recipes on how to cook Kalabasa so that it tastes good, is cheap, and can help these people with malnutrition, but what if they are allergic to Kalabasa?

Below are a list of signatures that I got from people who taste tested my food. Most of them all agreed that they liked the Kalabasa Stir-fry better than the Kalabasa cooked in Coconut Milk.

  1. Ate Chiling                                                                               8. John Chesnut
  2. Ate Adella
  3. Hannah Schutt
  4. Melissa Chesnut
  5. Kelly Chesnut
  6. Nathan Chesnut
  7. Aaron Chesnut



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