By Jennifer Poindexter
Have you considered growing gourds in your garden? A lot of people think they’re pretty but aren’t sure what to do with the gourds once they’ve matured.
With some gourds, such as the luffa, it’s obvious how to utilize them. You can make homemade sponges or even soaps with this type of gourd.
But what about other gourd varieties? If you dry them, you can use them for a multitude of projects. If this has piqued your interest, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to walk you through what you must know to successfully harvest and dry gourds. I’ll even share a few ideas on how you may utilize the gourds once dried.
Here’s everything you must know to utilize your gourds:
How to Harvest Gourds
You’ve grown your desired variety of gourd, and it’s time to harvest the mature product. Ensuring you do this step correctly is vital to drying your gourds successfully.
To begin, harvest your gourds before the first fall frost. You must also ensure the gourd is fully colored, has a hard outer skin, and the stem is dry.
Should you overlook one of these items, it could lead to harvesting your gourds prematurely. This could cause them to rot.
There are some instances where frost may occur early, and you might have to harvest the gourds early as well. However, if you can avoid this, please do so.
When you’re ready to harvest, be sure to cut the gourd from the plant. A knife or a pair of shears are good tools for this job.
Don’t pull the gourd to remove it from the plant as this could damage the fruit. Damaged areas on the gourd leave an opening for disease to occur. Should this happen, it could lead to rot.
Also, be sure to leave a few inches of the stem attached to the gourd. Not only does this serve as a helpful handle during the drying process, but it also encourages water to evaporate from the gourd.
Now that you know how to harvest your gourds, it’s time to discuss how to dry them for later use.
How to Dry Gourds
It’s time to dry your gourds, but where do you start? Drying gourds can be a lengthy process because they must dry inside and out.
Depending upon the variety of gourd, it could take anywhere from one to six months. Small, ornamental gourds (like Cucurbita) will typically dry faster than larger gourds (like Lagenaria) that you see used for bigger projects.
Here are the steps to drying freshly harvested gourds:
1. Clean the Gourds
Whether you grew large gourds or smaller, ornamental gourds the process starts the same. Begin by sanitizing them. Clean your freshly harvested gourds with warm, soapy water and a washcloth.
Allow the gourds to dry naturally. Once they’re fully dry, wipe them down with distilled vinegar to ensure all bacteria is gone.
2. Dry the Outside of the Gourds
After your gourds are clean and sanitized, place them in a protected location where they can receive airflow without receiving the elements such as rain or direct sunlight.
If too much moisture reaches the gourds, it will cause rot. A few examples of appropriate locations for drying gourds would be a carport, root cellar, an open shed or barn, or a dark corner with a fan.
Allow the gourds to dry for approximately two weeks. Smaller gourds may take less time. You’ll know the gourds are dry because their exterior will change colors.
3. Dry the Inside of the Gourds
The final step in drying gourds is to dry the inside of the fruits. After you know the outside is dried, move the gourds to a dark location with proper air flow.
A few places that could work are a root cellar, corner of a basement, or a closet. You may hang the gourds to ensure all sides receive appropriate air flow.
If you don’t have this option, you may place them on wire racks. If you’re drying multiple gourds, don’t let them touch.
Instead, allow the gourds to dry and rotate them (if you didn’t hang them) two times per month to ensure all sides receive equal amounts of air.
Check your gourds at every rotation. If they show signs of softness, they’re rotting and should be discarded. If you leave them, the rot will spread to any remaining gourds.
You’ll know your gourds are dry when their exteriors are hard and their interiors sound like a maraca. The jingling that takes place inside is the seeds bouncing around against the hard outer casing. The gourds should also feel light.
4. Clean the Gourds Again
After you know your gourds are dry, they must be cleaned again to remove any mold that may have developed during the drying process.
You do this by creating a bleach mixture that’s 90% water and only 10% bleach. Dip a washcloth in the mixture, wipe the gourds, and allow them to air dry.
Now that you know how to dry your gourds, let’s discuss what you may do with them after the process is finished.
Ideas for Utilizing Dried Gourds
Growing gourds isn’t a difficult process. Harvesting and drying them isn’t complicated, either. However, it is time consuming.
Why would you put all this time and effort into something if you weren’t going to use it? If you’re puzzled on what to do with your gourds once they’re dried, no worries.
Your work has not been done in vain, and I have a few traditional ideas to help inspire you on this journey.
Once gourds are dried, they may be used to make unique birdhouses or even kitchen utensils such as ladles.
In our current home, the previous owner dried lots of gourds and made many birdhouses to draw birds to the home.
We eventually got rid of the DIY birdhouses, but the birds still hang around our property to this day. That was five years ago. If you’re a birdwatcher, making your own birdhouses from gourds could be a nice option.
Another option for gourds is to use them for décor. For smaller varieties of gourds, you can dip them in wax (typically found on the baking aisle of most grocery stores) to help preserve them.
Dried gourds should last for a few months without doing anything else to them. However, if you’d like to prolong their lives even further, coating their exteriors in wax could be wise.
You can apply wax to your dried gourds by dipping them in it once the wax is fully melted. Be sure to use caution when applying hot wax to your gourds.
Then wait for the wax to dry on the gourds. This should seal them and prolong their use.
Gourds may also be sanded to help polish their exteriors, and they’re great for painting as well. With these options, the sky is the limit with all the different ways you could use gourds.
You could also visit your local craft store and find other neat ways to decorate the dried gourds. One option would be to purchase beautiful craft tidbits and glue them (with a hot glue gun) to the gourds. This should help them to stand out in your DIY decoration.
If you like to paint pumpkins, but want something a little different, you could paint a face on your gourd and use it for a different decorative item.
Gourds make gorgeous centerpieces, and small gourds can even be incorporated into homemade wreaths. Many people use dried gourds to decorate their front porches during certain times of the year as well.
Whether you’d like to attract more birds to your home, or if you’re interested in decorating your home on a budget, gourds are a great resource.
You now know how to harvest, dry, and utilize gourds. Hopefully, this will encourage you to grow a new plant in your garden.
Also, we hope it encourages you to take on new crafts around your home. Nothing adds charm to a home like homemade, unique projects made by the owner.