Gourds

If you grew gourds in your garden this summer, you may be interested in how to preserve them. If you just want to display them from now until Christmas, follow the first two steps. If you want to keep them indefinitely, follow all four steps listed below. Gourds dried completely will not retain their bright colors but will be great if you want to paint them or make them into a birdhouse.

  1. Pick gourds when they 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 do not 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, make small holes 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 can be used in their natural state. They may also be painted, waxed, shellacked or varnished for crafts.

These gourds will make a great Thanksgiving centerpiece or fun seasonal decorations around the house.

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Halloween Crafts

I am starting to notice Halloween decorations in town and at local stores. One of our co-workers brought in a picture of some decorations she made with her young nephews over the weekend. It looks like a fun project and she said that the boys all really enjoyed it.

 

I think this would work well with my own grandsons. They love to go to the pumpkin patch to choose pumpkins and they enjoy carving them. Once carved, the pumpkins do not last very long and often can attract gnats or flies. Some years, the jack o lanterns the boys carved rot outside even before Halloween.

To make these jack o lanterns, buy some foam sheets that have an adhesive backing. They are inexpensive and several sheets have enough space to create multiple face parts. These sheets are available in many colors; you may want to buy at least black and white sheets. If you want googly eyes on your jack o lanterns, be sure the eyes you buy have an adhesive back. Depending on the age of the children, you may want to cut pieces in advance or have older children draw their own pieces. Enjoy.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Pick the Best Pumpkin

Pumpkins of all sizes and varieties are appearing at the market and other venues.  There’s a lot of variety in pumpkins and it pays to consider what you’ll be using your pumpkin for–cooking, carving, or decorating–when you go shopping for one.  When choosing a carving or decorating pumpkin, you’re looking for a nice shape and a pumpkin that will last several days. The choice for a cooking or baking pumpkin is all about taste and texture.

For cooking and baking, you’ll want to use a pumpkin that has a smooth, dense grain or texture and a very mild, delicate and sweet flavor.  Often time they are generically labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.”  Other pumpkins or squash that work equally as well are the Long Island Cheese Pumpkins which look like a wheel of cheese, the white ‘Luminia’, or butternut squash. “Pie pumpkins” are smaller in size, about 5-8 inches in diameter and weigh between three and eight pounds.  “One pound of fresh pumpkin yields about 4 cups raw peeled and cubed, or 1 cup cooked when mashed or pureed pumpkin.  A 5 pound fresh pumpkin will make 4-4.5 cups of cooked puree or mashed pulp. If you want a thicker puree, place it in a colander or cheesecloth for a while to drain out excess water. If a recipe calls for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin, you can replace it with 1.75 cups mashed fresh pumpkin. In general, plan on purchasing 1/3 to 1/2 pound of fresh pumpkin per serving as a side dish. Much of the weight will be discarded in the peel and seeds.” (source:  https://www.howmuchisin.com/produce_converters/pumpkin)  Check for nicks, bruises or soft spots before purchasing.  If kept in a cool, dry location, they will keep well for a couple of months.  As the pumpkin ages, the skin will dull, but as long as the skin is unblemished and free of mold, the flesh inside will still be sweet and edible; in fact, over time, the flesh becomes even sweeter.  Once cut, fresh pumpkin/squash should be wrapped tightly, refrigerated, and used within five days.  Cooked pumpkin/squash freezes very well for later use.

You can carve or decorate with any type of pumpkin, squash, or gourd.  However, larger pumpkins used for carving or decorating are generally known as field pumpkins and besides being larger in size, also have a watery, stringy flesh.  A good carving pumpkin should be firm, healthy, feel heavy when picked up, and sound slightly hollow when tapped gently. Ideally, the shell should be hard enough to protect it, but still allow a knife through. Pumpkins with outer shells that feel as hard as a piece of wood are very difficult and dangerous to slice or carve.  The heavier the pumpkin, the thicker the walls. Thick walls may block the light source and carving details may be lost. If the pumpkin you choose has thicker walls than desired, one can shave the walls from the inside.  Test to see if the pumpkin has a good base to sit on so that it won’t roll over.  Avoid carrying the pumpkin by its stem.  The stem is not a handle and if it breaks, you may loose part of your design or create a wound that invites rot.

Once a pumpkin has been opened or carved, it will start to dry and shrivel as soon as exposed to air.  Carved pumpkins will keep nicely for a few days in the refrigerator; this is especially helpful if carving needs to take place a few days ahead of the display time.  If you want to carve and display but want the display to last longer than one day, place the carved pumpkin in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.  Another tip is to spray it with “Wilt-Pruf” plant protector.  For display pumpkins whether carved or solely for decoration, it is important that they not be left outdoors if there is a threat of frost.

Enjoy pumpkin season!

 

 

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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