Gourds

Gourds are a symbol of the harvest season, and their beautiful fall colors and interesting shapes are why these relatives of squash are often used in autumn decorating. While you can find gourds at craft stores and groceries, you can also grow your own gourds at home.



Gourds are a symbol of the harvest season, and their beautiful fall colors and interesting shapes are why these relatives of squash are often used in autumn decorating. While you can find gourds at craft stores and groceries, you can also grow your own gourds at home.

What makes a gourd different from a cucumber or squash is that it is useful instead of edible. Gourds have been cultivated for thousands of years by many cultures worldwide, including Native Americans, for their usefulness as utensils, storage containers and  ornaments. Gourds fall into three general categories: ornamental, utilitarian and spongy.

Gourds take 100 to 180 days to mature. They grow best in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Like squash, you can plant gourds in hills and the plants may need some help with pollination.

Gourds are ready to harvest when their stems turn brown, and this will usually be before the first winter frost. Cut the gourds from the plant with a couple inches of stem attached.

Curing gourds is a two-step process which may take 1 to 6 months depending on the type and size of the gourd. Surface drying is the first step, and takes about one week. During this time, the skin hardens and the exterior color of the gourd sets. To cure, place clean, dry gourds in a dark, well-ventilated location. Arrange the gourds in a single layer on a slatted tray that will allow air circulation. Check gourds daily and toss out any that are moldy or have soft spots.

Internal drying is the second step in curing and takes a minimum of four weeks. Keep the gourds in shallow containers in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area. If any mold appears on the outside skin, gourds can be wiped clean and allowed to continue drying. However, any gourds that become decayed, shriveled or misshapen should be discarded. Periodically turn the fruit to discourage shriveling and promote even curing.

Once gourds are cured that can be decorated with paint, wax or varnish for use as decorative fall accents.

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