Most of the vegetables I grow are primarily for eating. Some may be beautiful too, but if you can't eat it, I'm not interested. The exception is gourds.
Gourds are one of the earliest plants domesticated by man and is grown around the world. And we use it for a multitude of purposes, except eating.
There are two types of this cucumber-family plant: the decorative, or soft-shelled gourd and the larger, hard-shelled gourd. The soft-shelled gourds are those warty, odd-looking, colorful, small gourds you see used as fall decorations. They usually rot after a good frost and are composted.
The hard-shelled gourds are the ones used since ancient times. Many hard-shelled gourds are named after their usage such as dipper gourd, spoon gourd, bottle gourd, basket gourd, and birdhouse gourd. Some people make musical instruments from their gourds.
Once cured, these hard-shelled gourds can last years. I still have a bottle gourd I grew for my stepson 25 years ago.
The key to preserving hard-shelled gourds is to cure and dry them properly. Gourds take a long time to mature, so be patient.
Harvest once the gourd has reached full size, but before a frost. Wash off the shell with a soapy water solution to disinfect it. Place gourds in a warm, well-ventilated, dark room for drying. The skin should dry within one week, while the insides of the gourd may take several months.
Don’t let the gourds touch one another and check them daily for rotting. When you can shake the gourd and you hear the seeds rattle around inside, it’s dry. Paint, carve, wax, and decorate the gourd.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about lasagna gardening. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.