Harvesting & processing a gourd for art
Gourds are ready to harvest when they become hard to the touch. “You can tell when the fruit is ready to harvest when the stems dry off and turn brown,” says Karen. “The gourds themselves will start to turn from green to an ivory shade.”
It is best to keep the fruit on the vine until after the first frost. If you have grown your vines along the ground, the gourds can be left on the vine to dry where they have grown as the freeze and thaw process of winter will not harm the shell, provided the fruit has grown to maturity.
If you have grown the fruit up a trellis, it is best to cut and store them as the vines will become weak as they dry off and will be unable to hold the bigger fruit.
Cut the stem loose from the vine with a sharp knife or scissors, and leave at least 3cm of stem on the gourd to prevent the fruit from rotting. Wash the gourds in warm, soapy water, then rinse in a mix of water and bleach (¼ cup of bleach per 5 litres of water). This helps to remove any soil and soil-borne bacteria clinging to the shell, preventing it from rotting.
Dry with a soft cloth to avoid bruising or scratching the skin.
Place the clean gourds on several layers of newspaper in a warm, dry place. Space the gourds so they don’t touch one another and so air can circulate between them. Initially, you should turn the gourds daily, and replace any dampened newspaper with fresh, dry paper.
James Conquer runs gourdcrafting workshops at Forgotten Arts in Clevedon, south of Auckland. He says gourd drying is not a quick process.
“Drying can take several months, basically a season to dry,” he says. “Store them in a dry place, out of the sun, say in the garden shed or garage. They go brown and as they dry out, get lighter and lighter. You know they are dry enough when you shake them and the seeds rattle inside like a maracas.”
After they are completely dry, the gourds are ready to be polished, painted, carved or burned, as in pyrography.
“We burn patterns into them using
You can use a hot poker or dremel to decorate a gourd
a pokerwork machine,” says James. “Alternatively you can carve patterns using a dremel.”
Either way, you can have some fun with your gourds and possibly create a work of art.