Gourds are arguably the most versatile plants you can grow. They are not often eaten (there isn’t enough ‘meat’ on them to make it worth it) but these uniquely shaped and textured vegetables have been used for centuries to fashion tools, dishes, utensils and even rattles for children.
In today’s world it seems gourds are under-appreciated and pigeonholed into their assigned Thanksgiving holiday of cornucopia centerpieces. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but gourds can do so much more! The thick, colorful skins and prolifically producing vines make gourds a favorite for kids’ gardens, and everyone enjoys watching them grow into bumpy and infinitely unique shapes.
To learn how to grow gourds visit our gourd planting guide. After growing, here are some tips from Joy, one of our customers from upstate New York, on how to dry gourds and creative ways to use them.
Tips for Drying Gourds:
- Make sure you cut gourds from the vine. Pulling a gourd instead of cutting it can damage the stem.
- Clean the gourds thoroughly. Then hang or place them in a dry location with good air circulation. If you can’t hang the gourds, place them on a screen or vented surface so there is ample airflow around them. Joy likes to place her gourds close to a wood stove in her house where there is abundant dry heat.
- Rotate your gourds and check on them every few days. The skin will begin to harden and change color. If mold appears, simply wipe it off with a dry cloth or a cloth dipped in bleach. If the gourd is still hard, the surface mold can easily be removed, but if the gourd is soft or starts to shrivel you will need to discard it.
Crafting with Gourds:
- PersonalizeÂ it! Towards the end of a gourd’s growing cycle (while it is still on the vine) carve a design or name into the skin. Later when the gourd goes through the drying process the design will ‘scar’ where you carved it.Â
- After the gourd is dry use a drill to poke holes into the skin and make your own lantern! It may be tempting to cut or drill gourds before they are fully dry, but this is a bad ideaâ€”it can cause molding and ruin your design! Be patient as gourds can take several months to fully dry.
- Gourds with long necks make great natural rattles. As a gourd dries the seeds will loosen from the meat inside creating a natural noise maker.Â
- Paint them!Â
- Carefully drill or cut them to create decorative bowls.