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Curing Gourds

Harvesting and Curing Gourds

Gourds are ready for harvest when the stems dry and turn brown. It is best to harvest gourds Gourdsbefore frost. Mature gourds that have a hardened shell will survive a light frost, but less developed gourds will be damaged. The lagenaria will tolerate a light frost; but gourd color may be slightly affected. Gourds should be cut from the vine with a few inches of the stem attached. Take care not to bruise the gourds during harvest, as this increases the likelihood of decay during the curing process. Discard any fruit that is rotten, bruised or immature. After harvesting, gourds should be cleaned with soap and water, dried, and rubbing alcohol applied to the surface.

Curing cucurbita gourds is a two-step process which may take 1 to 6 months depending on the type and size of the gourd. Surface drying is the first step in the curing process, and takes approximately one week. During this time, the skin hardens and the exterior color of the gourd is set. Place clean, dry fruit in a dark, well-ventilated area. Arrange gourds in a single layer and make certain that the fruits do not touch each other. A slatted tray will allow air circulation around the gourds. Check gourds daily and discard fruit that show signs of decay or mold and any that develop soft spots.

Internal drying is the second step in curing and takes a minimum of four weeks. Keep the gourds in shallow containers in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area. If any mold appears on the outside skin, gourds can be wiped clean and allowed to continue drying. However, any gourds that become decayed, shriveled or misshapen should be discarded. Periodically turn the fruit to discourage shriveling and promote even curing. Providing warmth during the internal curing process will accelerate drying and discourage decay. Adequate curing is achieved when the gourd becomes light in weight and the seeds can be heard rattling inside. Cured gourds can be painted, waxed, or decorated.

Lagenaria gourds can be surface cured in the same manner as cucurbita gourds. However, the internal drying process takes much longer for the gourds to fully harden. After curing, the surface can be smoothed and polished with very fine steel wool or sandpaper. The hardened shell should be treated with rubbing alcohol, allowed to dry, and then waxed or shellacked for the final finish.

Luffa gourds have specific harvesting and processing techniques to produce high quality sponges. Harvest when the outer shell is dry, the gourd is light in weight and the seeds rattle inside. Remove the stem end of the gourd and shake out the seeds from the center cavity. Soak the luffa gourds in warm water until the outer skin softens to the point where it can be easily removed. Then soak the fibrous sponge in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to obtain the desirable creamy-white appearance. Rinse in clear water and allow to dry before using.



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