Gourds are one of the oldest cultivated crops. They are believed to have spanned the entire globe in prehistoric times. Their uses during this time have been recorded on walls in paintings.
They were used mainly by cultures in temperate and tropical zones because this is where gourds grow best. They need a long growing season to mature and grow to a useful size. As time went on gourds were traded and began to have value in other cultures. They are now grown in cooler climates but creative growing techniques are used to expand the season or the gourds are started as seedling and set out when temperatures warm up.
Gourds were most commonly used for hauling water, storing supplies, musical instruments, and rattles. For hunting and fighting, gourds were used as trumpets.
Bird feeders and birdhouses are still one of the most known and valued gourd items by gardeners and bird enthusiasts. The Birdhouse Gourd is used for the Purple Martin Birdhouse and nature groups encourage their growth and use.
Gourds were also made into cooking and eating utensils. Objects made out of gourds have lasted for centuries and are unearthed in archeological sites.
Gourds are still considered by many to be one of nature’s greatest gifts to mankind. Gourding societies have formed to preserve gourd varieties, history and to teach people how to create gourds into art and useful tools
One of the reason gourds holds such interest to so many is that they are truly a unique crop. They grow in the soil and are harvested but have more uses than most other crops ever could. There are a few gourds that can be eaten but most are dried to be used for tools, utensils and masks. A few are even used for furniture.
Gourds have odd shaped seeds and if grown in a warm climate with water and rich soil they produce amazing crops. The plants will spread and climb everything in their area: fences, trees, buildings, etc. My one friend grows his gourds up the side of an old shed.
Gourds add suspense to any garden while growing. You never know what shape or color variety you will have. Children find them fascinating and often their interest in gourds will lead to other gardening interest later on.
Overall gourds require little care other than regular watering and good soil. I often pinch the vines to promote larger gourds and even remove some flowers to keep the crop smaller in number.
I harvest my gourds before a killing frost. Even a mild frost will weaken them and cause them to rot rather than to cure and dry normally.
When dried and cleaned they have a wooden natural look and are quite light. At this stage they become fragile and will often break or crack if dropped. As they dry each gourd will have its own natural blemishes and scars and these add to their unique look. They are also surprising light and fragile. Dropping one from even a short height will usually crack it.
I craft a lot with my gourds and if I have a gourd I really like and it gets a crack I have fixed them by applying a thin paper or cheese cloth to the area, gluing it in place and letting it dry. After its dry I sand it until it is not noticeable and continue on with my gourd art.