Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

January-February 2006

Preserving and Crafting with Gourds

by Dr. William C. Welch, Landscape Horticulturist,
Texas Cooperative Extension

apple gourd
Decorated apple gourd

January is a good time to get down and check out the condition of those gourds you have put away to dry in the garage or back porch. As frost cuts back the foliage of the vines, the fruit can be allowed to hang in place to absorb the last possible nourishment from the parent plant. Cut gourds before the first really hard frost arrives and dry, preferably hanging, until light-weight and cured in appearance. By allowing air circulation all over the surface of the gourd you can cut chances of bad spots appearing due to rot. A little mold may appear on the surface but will not be a problem. If the gourds are to be left natural the mold patterns will add interest, or they can be scrubbed off with warm water. To provide a natural look, polish them with a cloth, or go over them with hard floor or shoe wax or polyurethane.

Elongated luffa gourds can be peeled after they have dried and the tangled skeins of dried fibers inside trimmed into neat shapes. They will make good ‘scrubbers’ to give as gifts with scented soaps for the bath, or kept for scouring purposes. The dipper, bottle gourds, bushel baskets and club types have relatively thin skins and will be the easiest to dry. The smaller fruits of the yellow-flowered Cucurbita pepo, typical of those found in the grocery stores in the fall and which come in many warted, striped or mottled forms, have thicker flesh and will take more attention during drying.

After gourds are cured, they may be trimmed or painted into such fanciful creations as Santa Claus, angels, penguins, various birds, spoons, plates, bowls, bird houses, butterfly hibernation habitats, lamps, carved ‘pumpkins’ or jack o’lanterns, baskets of all sorts, Indian rattles or other vessels. You can do to gourds many of the decorative things that can be done with wood: sawing, whittling, design burning or painting. For further information on techniques, check with your local library, or contact Mrs. Betty Kent of the Texas Gourd Society (409) 357-2603, a chapter of the American Gourd Society.

Earth Kind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape performance while preserving and protecting the environment. For more information on Earth Kind Landscape Management Practices see our web site: http://earthkind.tamu.edu