How to cre­ate art from a vege

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Jane Wrigglesworth

Gourds are fun to grow, but you can end up with enough to last a life­time, or at least a healthy sup­ply to flick off at the lo­cal mar­kets and to friends, fam­ily, strangers. Any­one.

Gourd grow­ing in New Zealand is not as pop­u­lar as it is in the US, where the Amer­i­can Gourd So­ci­ety and The Gourd Mag­a­zine were set up to sa­ti­ate their thirst for all things gourd. Speak to any Amer­i­can and they’ll tell you that hard shell gourds have been grown and used for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber. In times past they served as drink­ing and eat­ing ves­sels, but today they’re used as or­na­men­tal bowls, bird­houses, art­work and fes­tive dec­o­ra­tions.

“The prod­uct I take the most pride in that I sell at this time of the year are my beloved gourds,” says Janna Field of Field­farms, a small farm in Dex­ter, Michi­gan.

“I love gourds. I grow them every year and have a huge stash of many kinds. I clean the gourds and turn them into use­ful items. Christ­mas or­na­ments are

my best-sell­ing gourds, and they sell for $US15 each. I clean the gourds, drill a hole in the top, in­sert a gold string for hang­ing, and paint them. I also sell gourd bird­houses and gourd bowls.”

The gourds are a con­stant crowd-puller at her mar­ket stall, whether sold freshly picked, or dried and dec­o­rated.

“My hus­band built a won­der­ful dis­play for th­ese gourds and it re­ally catches the cus­tomers’ eye,” she says. “Most don’t even re­alise how many va­ri­eties there are and what can be done with them. It cre­ates a very unique dis­play that helps me stand out at the mar­ket.”

Gar­den­ers grow gourds in New Zealand but not to the same ex­tent, largely due to the chal­lenge of im­port­ing gourd seed into New Zealand.

“Virus test­ing is cur­rently re­quired by the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries prior to im­port­ing each or­der of gourd seed into New Zealand,” says Karen May of NZ seed sup­plier Kings Seeds. “This has in­creased the price con­sid­er­ably, due to the mul­ti­ple tests re­quired. Sadly, this has made many of the va­ri­eties no longer eco­nom­i­cally vi­able for us to stock, which is a great shame as the enquiries we re­ceive in­di­cate that there are many cus­tomers out there who love grow­ing all the dif­fer­ent gourds.”

Kings Seeds sells a gourd mix called ‘Large Fruited Mixed’ which in­cludes large va­ri­eties such as Cal­abash, Cave­man’s Club, Pow­der Horn, Dip­per, Bird House and oth­ers. Some have hour­glass shapes that are great for doll-mak­ing, oth­ers are pear-shaped and ideal for turn­ing into bird­houses. Dip­per gourds have long, skinny necks with round bul­bous ends that, when cut, make use­ful la­dles or dip­pers.

Kings also sells a mix called ‘Small Fruited Mixed’ which in­cludes colour­ful and in­trigu­ing va­ri­eties such as Spoon, Pear, Or­ange, Egg, Ap­ple, Bot­tle and Warted. Th­ese make fab­u­lous ta­ble and sea­sonal dec­o­ra­tions.

Coun­try Trad­ing Co has seeds of the large bot­tle gourd.

In the US, peo­ple are so en­am­oured with gourds, there is a for­mal so­ci­ety and a mag­a­zine.

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