Harvesting & pro­cess­ing a gourd for art

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Home-grown, Hand-made -

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.

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