The Q&A Archives: Gourds

Question: How do you know when to pick the decorative gourds?

Answer: You can harvest gourds after they have fully ripened on the vine. A hardened shell and withered vine indicate maturity and readiness for harvest. Cut the gourd from the vine with one to two inches of stem attached.

Gourds should be carefully handled. Cuts, punctures, and bruises increase the chance of rots developing. Throw away any damaged or immature gourds. Wash dirty gourds with soap and water, rinse in a weak bleach solution, then dry. During curing, first the shell, then the interior will dry. This process will take up to six months to complete.

The fruits of ornamental or Cucurbita gourds should be cured in a warm, dark, dry location. Arrange gourds in a single layer so they do not touch each other. Slotted trays will allow good air circulation. Check daily and discard any decayed, moldy, or squishy fruits.

Surface drying takes about a week and is completed when the shell hardens and the color brightens. Internal drying takes several more weeks. A warm curing area will speed drying and reduce decay. If molds begin to appear on the surface of ornamental type gourds, wipe clean and continue drying. Periodically turn the fruit to promote even drying. Shriveled or rotten gourds should be thrown away. Ornamental gourds are completely cured when the fruit is lightweight and the seeds rattle when it is shaken. After curing, ornamental gourds may be polished, waxed, or shellacked.

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