The Fall Gourd Patch
When should I harvest my gourds?
My gourds shriveled up after I picked them, what gives?
How do I dry my gourds?
My gourds get all moldy and disgusting. Yuck!
How do I clean off the outer skin and mold?
When should I harvest my gourds? Be sure your gourds are fully mature before cutting. The stems should be brown and the leaves dying back. Leave at least two inches of stem when you cut. If frost is a part of your climate, wait for a good one before harvest. In the South, some growers find they can accelerate the harvest with an application of herbicide in early Fall.
My gourds shriveled up after I picked them, what gives? If you pick before the gourds are ready, they'll shrivel.
How do I dry my gourds? Keep your harvested hardshells off the ground on pallets or whatever you have available; the idea is to let air circulate around them and cut off the flow of moisture from the ground. If you're planning on saving seeds, pick out the best gourds and let them cure where they won't freeze hard; this will improve germination rates. Once the seeds are dry, freezing won't hurt.
My gourds get all moldy and disgusting.Your gourds are 90% water, and they're probably going to get moldy as they dry. That's normal, and the mold and outer skin of the gourd will wash off after the gourd is dry. Many people like the mottled look the molds produce, but you can prevent molds by washing the fresh gourd with a dilute chlorox solution. For a fine surface, and faster drying, try scraping off the outer skin of mature, fresh gourds with a knife.
How do I clean off the outer skin and mold? Let your gourds soak in hot soapy water. A half hour is not too long. Then scrub them with a metal scrub pad like you'd use in the kitchen. You'll find that the skin will come right off, leaving a beautiful nut-brown surface.
This material was originally printed in The Gourd, a publication of the American Gourd Society
Let me know what works for you and for gardeners in your area. Contact me with questions and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org
ŠJohn J. McClintock 1996
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