Gourds are a fun sign that fall has arrived! They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you would like to use some for decorating here are some steps to preserve them.
FIRST determine how the gourd will actually be used. If they are for decorative use only just until Christmas decorating time, then just go through step 2. If you want to keep them longer or use them for art projects then continue on to steps 3 and 4.
1 – Gourds should be picked when the fruit are fully mature. At maturity, the stem attached to the fruit begins to dry and turn brown. Cut the gourds from the vines with a hand shears, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit. Handle the gourds carefully as the skin is susceptible to bruising or scratching.
2 – Gently wash the gourds in soapy water and rinse in a solution of water and chlorine bleach. This should destroy decay organisms which could lead to fruit rot. Gently dry each gourd with a soft cloth.
3 – Dry the gourds by spreading them on several layers of newspaper in a warm, well-ventilated place such as a porch, garage or shed. Place the gourds in a single layer, spacing them so that they don’t touch one another. Avoid sunny areas as colors may fade. Rotate them every 2 or 3 days, gently wiping with a dry cloth to remove moisture. Promptly remove any which begin to rot.
4 – Drying or curing may take up to several weeks. To hasten drying of large decorative gourds, small holes may be made in the bottom of the fruit with an ice pick or nail. The gourds will feel lighter in weight, and the seeds will rattle when the gourds are fully dry.
Once cured, the gourds may be used in their natural state. The complete drying of gourds may cause them to lose the bright colors. They may also be painted, waxed, shellacked or varnished for crafts.