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Gourd Time

October 18, 2012

One of the bonuses of spending 4 hours a week helping at the Wild Ramp Market is that I see very clearly what produce has ripened and have become better connected to the seasons of the harvest.  I have often enjoyed the colors and textures of various fruits and vegetables on display there and a basket of gourds pulled me and my camera to them like a magnet.

While I have always appreciated the varieted colors and knobby textures, I never have understood gourds. Knowing that many people purchase them for decor this time of year, the practical side of my nature wondered what purpose gourds serve. The benefit of writing a blog means I can put that curiosity to some use. *G*

A member of the Cucurbitaceae or Cucumber family, gourds are related to cucumbers, but also pumpkins, squash and melons and have been used by many cultures as storage containers, bowls, bird houses and sponges. There are two parts to the curing process. The first stage is relatively short and takes only a week or two to dry the exterior. The interior drying process takes longer and only when completed can the gourd then be used.

Lagenaria gourds in drying bins at the Welburn Gourd Farm in De Luz, California.

Once dried and cleaned, the gourd can be cut or decorated and enjoyed. Some artists are particularly gifted.

Gourd Art by Bonnie Gibson

Last week, while visiting an apiary in Ripley, West Virginia, I learned that Purple Martins, a bird species that I knew lived in manmade houses, were originally trained to live in hollowed out gourds by the Native Americans. The birds naturally provided insect control in the community during the summer season before their migration south. Now plastic shapes are produced to mimic the natural gourds. Instructions for drying the  gourd can help you produce a birdhouse.

Other uses for gourds include bowls, planters

and even canteens.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2012 2:23 pm

    no mention of edible uses – I always wondered! I love the idea of using them for bird houses.

  2. October 18, 2012 2:40 pm

    Most gourds, being related to squash, are edible, though the taste may leave something to be desired. It’s always touch and go with hybrids. Bake one up in the oven like a squash. (Cut in half, and put in some butter, brown sugar, and salt and pepper, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Either it’ll be worth eating, or it won’t. 🙂

  3. Laura permalink
    October 18, 2012 2:43 pm

    Just love that Native American decorated gourd!

  4. October 18, 2012 7:35 pm

    I’m with Laura… the gourd by Bonnie Gibson is a work of art! Gorgeous! (or should that be gourdgious?) 😉

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